John Maynard Keynes’s generation of economists assumed that as people became more efficient at satisfying their wants, they would, and should as rational agents, work less and enjoy life more. Yet power relationships and the insatiability of human wants are such that we have maintained an ethic of acquisitiveness.
International rivalries add fuel to the acquisitive fire. We are constantly being told to gear up to face further challenges, particularly from the Chinese and other poor but industrious peoples. But why, if we already have enough, should we strive for a larger presence in emerging markets?
It is worth recalling that the ideal of economic growth as an end without end is of fairly recent origin. When British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan told the voters in 1959 that they had “never had it so good,” he was echoing the widely held view at the time that the capitalist countries of the West were rapidly approaching a consumption plateau, and the main problem of the future would be to ensure that the fruits of the new abundance were democratically distributed.
For the full article by Robert Skidelsky, an emeritus professor of political economy at the University of Warwick and the author of a three- volume biography of John Maynard Keynes.