…historically the left were supportive of growth and mass prosperity, but today ‘most self-proclaimed radicals emphasise the need to impose limits on consumption and economic growth’. In the preface, Ben-Ami aligns himself with the radical Suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst, who wrote: ‘We do not preach a gospel of want and scarcity, but of abundance… We call for a great production that will supply all, and more than all the people can consume.’ As the book’s cheeky title, Ferraris for All, suggests, he wants to raise mass living standards, at a time when many respond to inequality by calling for a levelling downwards.
Ben-Ami’s discussion of how ‘progressives’ abandoned progress highlights the fact that ‘left’ and ‘right’ can be misleading categories today. In the past, when the desirability of growth was a shared assumption, the right-left debate was over the system that best delivered growth – capitalism versus communism, or free-market versus state-directed capitalism. Today many prefer to fight old wars and bang on with these same arguments. But, as Ben-Ami’s book makes clear, those who do so miss that the world has changed. There is now a more fundamental debate to be had and won – not over how best to grow, but over whether growth is desirable at all.
So even though anti-growth may not be the whole problem we have today, it is a large part of it. I think if the Democrats continue along this track, blunting growth at every turn, it will lead to a big Republican takeover, which I do not want to see as the Republicans are much more likely to blow up the world.