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Sources of growth? Ourselves

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

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

We took the energy at once from four dimensions: from the past (gas, coal and other forms of solar energy from the past), from the future (deficit doping of economy at the expense of debt), from a horizontal line (thus a growth of wealth, especially of developed economies, from globalization) and finally from a vertical line (thanks to scientific and technical innovations that were figuratively falling down like an inspiration from the sky).

The questions we are asking now is if we are not running out of sources, even though they may seem to work just fine at the moment. We still have gas, but we are aware 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 countries reached the bottom and they cannot afford to borrow more at the expense of the future (the future fades away). And though we know globalization will continue, it will likely never be as fast as it is now.

We are on a growing curve that is however growing slower (it is concave and its inclination is not as steep as it used to be). In the case of innovations (the vertical line) the situation can develop in all kinds of ways, which is the reason why there is so much hope is focused on science and research. But it is hard to imagine that the dramatic 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 are not ours (moreover they run short) and none of them is so stable as to bet on it. It can 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 do not mean it in a bad way when I say that one can sell out oneself. I mean that simply parts of our behavior, parts of ourselves that didn't use to be part of the market mechanism will one day become part of it.

For example there is communication. Some time ago it used to be a natural component of us and what is more important: in most cases it did not pass through the market. As opposed to nowadays, a great part of communication, for some it may be the biggest part, does pass through the market - we communicate through market institutions, our communication has become part of the market. Therefore something 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 not only 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 above comments were not supposed to sound critically, however the question is how far we will let the market go and what we are able to get through it. Take for instance washing the dishes, cooking dinner or babysitting, these things are not included in GDP in most cases. If we wanted these realms put in trust with the market, which means 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 puts depth between me and satisfaction of my (newly created) needs and it also offers instruments 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 of depths or spaces and from their arching big part of the economy is being fed. So it is actually up to us, how far we want to grow.

About the Author: Tomáš Sedláček (1977) is a Chief Macro-economic Strategist at ČSOB. 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, Václav Havel.

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