EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND READER’S GUIDE:
Life Beyond Growth 2012 was intended to be the first in a series of reports tracking the rise of “New Economic” ideas such as Green Growth, Green Economy, Genuine Progress, and Gross National Happiness. It also covered the new indicators that are being developed development to measure national progress in these terms. All of these ideas, and others like them, can be seen as emerging out of the global movement for Sustainable Development. And all of them had been treated seriously by one or more national governments in the years leading up to this report. Life Beyond Growth was cited within the United Nations system as a valuable resource leading up to the Rio+20 global summit of 2012.
Life Beyond Growth can be read as an introduction to specific New Economic ideas and as a review on how they were being used in national economic policy as of 2012 (Chapter 5). Life Beyond Growth also provides historical background (Chapters 1-4), as well as an analysis of how a wide range of geopolitical issues — from citizen protest movements, to corporate responsibility programs, to armed conflict and war — were impacting the spread and adoption of New Economic ideas (Chapter 6). It closes with a reflection on the ethics of New Economic ideas in a complex, globalized world, where many still need (and want) the expansion of access to resources and security that is traditionally associated with economic growth (Chapter 7).
Readers interested in the full picture of how traditional economic growth, currently measured by the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), became enshrined in national policy-making and goal-setting, and how these alternatives arose to challenge the GDP’s dominance, should read the full report starting from Chapter 1 (page 13).
Readers who just want to get a quick update on the range of New Economic ideas in play as of 2012, somewhere in the world, should turn directly to Chapter 5, “Rethinking Growth: Alternative Frameworks and their Indicators.” This chapter provides an annotated catalog of concepts and measures, together with Internet links to direct sources (though some of these may be outdated). (Page 34)
Readers interested in the geopolitics of New Economy ideas will want to turn to Chapter 6, “Looking Ahead: The Political Economy of Growth in the Early 21st Century (page 50). This chapter also underscores the lack of clear consensus on which New Economic idea, or mix of ideas, is preferable as a counterweight to the dominance of traditional “Growth as Usual,” measured by the GDP.
Life Beyond Growth attempts to maintain a sympathetic-yet-objective perspective on the full range of New Economy ideas now vying for attention in the global policy marketplace. But in Chapter 7, “Concluding Reflections: The Ethics of Growth and Happiness, and a Vision for the Future,” lead author Alan AtKisson makes his own views transparent. He makes the case for combining two specific ideas — Green Economy and Gross National Happiness (i.e. national well-being) — as a way of meeting the needs of both the developing and the developed world.
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