Constant growth can only make most of us poorer

This letter was first published in The Guardian.

George Monbiot is correct (The rich want us to believe their wealth is good for us all, 30 July) in his praise of Thomas Piketty's proposal for a wealth tax to counteract the insane levels of inequality now generated in our world, and in pointing out that only the Green party is prepared to back this obvious idea. However, we should be careful not to let Piketty's helpful intervention in the debate blind us to the severe limits of his own stance in political economy. I refer principally to Piketty's utter failure to take seriously the ecological limits to growth.

A central component of Piketty's answer to the crisis is: more of the same. More growth, the proceeds of which can then allegedly be "redistributed". The truth however is that growth is an alternative to egalitarian redistribution, an alternative to any serious effort to create a more equal society. The promise of growth is a replacement for the need to share. It is a promise of which we should be ever more suspicious, in a world whose biological limits are being ruptured, and in a country where we are now seeing growth, none of the benefits of which are trickling down to the 99% (GDP in the UK is now above the 2007 level, but most people in the country are worse off than they were in 2007).

Piketty's claim that a stalling of growth is bad for the majority is wrong: a stalling of growth, and a willingness to see that we can't keep growing the pie now that the ingredients are running out, will finally be what forces the majority to take back some of the wealth being hoarded by the rich.

A wealth tax is a key component in a greener, fairer, more equal society. Its introduction will not occur until we give up our desperate attachment to the oxymorons of "green growth" and "egalitarian growth" and face up to the need to share the wealth far more equally, in a world which finally understands that perpetual growth is the ideology of the cancer cell.

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