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WWWforEurope Working Paper 114
Modern western economies (in the Eurozone and elsewhere) face a number of challenges over the coming decades. Achieving full employment, meeting climate change and other key environmental targets, and reducing inequality rank amongst the highest of these. The conventional route to achieving these goals has been to pursue economic growth. But this route has created two critical problems for modern economies. The first is that higher growth leads (ceteris parabis) to higher environmental impact. The second is that fragility in financial balances has accompanied relentless demand expansion. The prevailing global response to the first problem has been to encourage a decoupling of output from impacts by investing in green technologies (green growth). But this response runs the risk of exacerbating problems associated with the over-leveraging of households, firms and governments and places undue confidence in unproven and imagined technologies. An alternative approach is to reduce the pace of growth and to restructure economies around green services (post-growth). But the potential dangers of declining growth rates lie in increased inequality and in rising unemployment. Some more fundamental arguments have also been made against the feasibility of interest-bearing debt within a post-growth economy. The work described in this paper was motivated by the need to address these fundamental dilemmas and to inform the debate that has emerged in recent years about the relative merits of green growth and post-growth scenarios. In pursuit of this aim we have developed a suite of macroeconomic models based on the methodology of Post-Keynesian Stock Flow Consistent (SFC) system dynamics. Taken together these models represent the first steps in constructing a new macroeconomic synthesis capable of exploring the economic and financial dimensions of an economy confronting resource or environmental constraints. Such an ecological macroeconomics includes an account of basic macroeconomic variables such as the GDP, consumption, investment, saving, public spending, employment, and productivity. It also accounts for the performance of the economy in terms of financial balances, net lending positions, money supply, distributional equity and financial stability. This report illustrates the utility of this new approach through a number of specific analyses and scenario explorations. These include an assessment of the Piketty hypothesis (that slow growth increases inequality), an analysis of the "growth imperative" hypothesis (that interest bearing debt requires economic growth for stability), and an analysis of the financial and monetary implications of green investment policies. The work also assesses the scope for fiscal policy to improve social and environmental outcomes.
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