Prosperity without Growth?

Professor Tim Jackson* has been interviewed about his report for the Sustainable Development Commission,

‘Prosperity without Growth?  (The transition to a sustainable economy)’

Among his comments to the interviewer:

“We’re saying it’s time to question it [economic growth]. The UK Government, like many governments around the world, has had a sort of unfailing allegiance to the idea that we must keep the economy growing at all costs, and it’s time to question that goal.”

“….the goal of the economy is not economic growth in itself: it’s believed that that’s going to give us prosperity, it’s going to give us a good life, it’s going to give us the conditions in which we can flourish as human beings. And the point of our report is to say that that’s the goal that we should be going for – that the aim is to deliver the ability for people to flourish. But we can only do that within the limits of the natural environment, we can only do it within the ecological capabilities of the planet. And at the moment we’re going in completely the wrong direction in ecological terms, and that is going to mean ultimately that we won’t have prosperity in any form if we don’t think more carefully about that relationship now.”

“…what we’re saying is that we need to put prosperity itself at the heart of
government policy, and that means understanding what prosperity means. Our report argues that it means we have to put people’s capability to flourish, to live well, at the heart of policy; so that they have, for example, a good work-life balance, that they are capable of integrating into their communities, that they have the necessities of life, of course. But it’s also vital that people can participate and take part fully in the life of society in ways that are less materialistic than they have done in the past. And so there are really three tasks for government:

  • one is to fix the economics that we’ve been working on which assumes that we can grow consumption endlessly;
  • the second is to go directly for the jugular – what matters is people’s capabilities to flourish, we should build those capabilities and protect peoples’ ability to flourish;
  • the third key message is that government needs to establish the ecological limits.

At the moment some of those are half-established but most of them are just lying in the margin, we don’t know what our requirements are, what our limits are in terms of material throughputs, and we need to establish that.”

Read the full interview  and the report on the SDC website,

* Commissioner for Economics at the Sustainable Development Commission, and Professor of Sustainable Development at the University of Surrey