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‘Enormous excess’, GDP, and sustainability

The Editor, The Sunday Star-Times, Auckland

27 June, 2014

Dear Editor:

Greed and the ‘excess’ it generates has been evident for centuries, accompanied by the debate about whether economic systems accepting greed generate useful incentive.  But Colin Espiner’s column (22 June, ‘The problem with greed’) acknowledges that today is not characterized so much by excess as by ‘enormous excess’.  This has been universally recognized ever since the finance crisis of 07-08 produced fewer and larger ‘too big to fail’ financial institutions in the USA.

Espiner points out that Thomas Piketty’s book, Capital in the 21st Century, has attracted much attention because it discusses the relationship between enormous excess, accumulation of capital, economic growth, and inequality.   The observation is made that faith in capitalism may be lost because working hard is not the way to get ahead.

But the biggest impact of this debate as it has emerged with Piketty’s book is that it has enabled continuing avoidance of discussion of the “elephant in the room”, the exploitative nature of growth in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on which so-called “economic growth” capitalism is based.

It has finally become apparent within western countries over the last decades that the kind of economic growth, based on GDP, engaged by capitalist economies, requires exploitation of people and the environment  quite beyond either a just or sustainable level (“enormous excess” generalized).  But Colin Espiner makes no mention of this, nor apparently do others debating Piketty’s thesis, exposing how politically skewed the debate is in favour of the exploiters.

Sincerely,

Richard Keller

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