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Sources of growth? Ourselves

Sources of growth? Ourselves
Tomas Sedlacek teaching in Bayreuth University, Germany, April 2012. Photos by Jana Hrivniakov
By Tom Sedlek
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There is one source of growth that is ours, literally, and it is simply ourselves. I donot mean it in a bad way when I say that one can sell out oneself. I mean that simplyparts of our behavior, parts of ourself that didn't used to be part of the marketmechanism will one day become part of it.

One year ago I was writing here about how in the past years we, like the Westerneconomies, grew on a wave - we took (just like for example a sea wave) water fromour surroundings and we used its energy.

We took the energy at once from four dimensions: from the past (gas, coal and otherforms of solar energy from the past), from the future (deficit doping of economy atthe expense of debt), from a horizontal line (thus a growth of wealth, especially ofdeveloped economies, from globalization) and finally from a vertical line (thanks toscientific and technical innovations that were figuratively falling down like aninspiration from the sky).

The questions we are asking now is if we are not running out of sources, eventhough they may seem to work just fine at the moment. We still have gas, but we areaware of the fact that we may soon run out of it (the energy of the past fades away),also it starts to be clear that we are low on the debt energy. A lot of countriesreached the bottom and they cannot afford to borrow more at the expense of thefuture (the future fades away). And though we know globalization will continue, itwill likely never be as fast as it is now.

We are on a growing curve that is however growing slower (it is concave and itsinclination is not as steep as it used to be). In the case of innovations (the verticalline) the situation can develop in all kinds of ways, which is the reason why there isso much hope is focused on science and research. But it is hard to imagine that thedramatic development of the past ten years will repeat itself. Even though, as I say,one never knows.


The most important thing I wanted to deliver is that three out of these sources arenot ours (moreover they run short) and none of them is so stable as to bet on it. Itcan occur to one then that after all there is another source of growth that is ours and it is as literal as that- ourselves.

There is one source of growth that is ours, literally, and it is simply ourselves. I donot mean it in a bad way when I say that one can sell out oneself. I mean that simplyparts of our behavior, parts of ourselves that didn't use to be part of the marketmechanism will one day become part of it.

For example there is communication. Some time ago it used to be a naturalcomponent of us and what is more important: in most cases it did not pass throughthe market. As opposed to nowadays, a great part of communication, for some itmay be the biggest part, does pass through the market - we communicate throughmarket institutions, our communication has become part of the market. Thereforesomething that used to function without the market now works through it.Something that did not use to raise GDP (communication) now does raise it. And notonly that: in the past years it has been an engine of growth in some way.


Nothing against it, I use mobile phones and internet myself. Therefore abovecomments were not supposed to sound critically, however the question is how farwe will let the market go and what we are able to get through it. Take for instancewashing the dishes, cooking dinner or babysitting, these things are not included inGDP in most cases. If we wanted these realms put in trust with the market, whichmeans we would have to pay for them, the GDP would change and that would be"growth".

In the long run, that is exactly how the specialized market society works: it putsdepth between me and satisfaction of my (newly created) needs and it also offersinstruments that bridge over it (in order to drink milk or coke, there is hundreds,maybe thousands of people - carriers, lawyers, accountants, office workers,promoters, farmers, chemists, designers, sociologists, artists, psychologists, etc).

Another great example is the above mentioned communication. From these kinds ofdepths or spaces and from their arching big part of the economy is being fed. So it isactually up to us, how far we want to grow.

About the Author:Tom Sedlek (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at SOB. He served as a non-political expert advisor to the First Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance of the Czech Republic, with special responsibility over fiscal consolidation and the reform of the tax, pension, and healthcare systems. He also served as an economic advisor then-president of the Czech Republic, Vclav Havel.

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