Views & Reviews Book Review

Growth without greed

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 29 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3998
  1. Richard Smith, director, UnitedHealth Chronic Disease Initiative, London
  1. [email protected]

Is there a healthier kind of economic growth? Richard Smith was inspired by a book that gives a recipe for a more sustainable economy

Politicians, particularly those in Europe and the United States, are desperate for economic growth, but it’s the wrong kind of growth. The kind of growth that we’ve known recently, driven by debt and consumption, will destroy us. That’s the argument of Boston economist Juliet B Schor, who describes a different form of sustainable growth that will be kinder for us, our health, and the planet. She calls it plenitude.

Schor’s book is easily understood by non-economists and contains data, evidence, and stories that illustrate a new world. The book reads like a first draft of how we all might live lives that are not austere but environmentally sustainable and fulfilling. There’s more thinking and work to be done, particularly about what plenitude might mean for the billions living in poverty in low and middle income countries. And typically Schor is stronger on analysing the problem than describing the detail of the solution.

Economists identify two forms of growth: intensive and extensive. Intensive growth is using resources more efficiently; extensive growth is replacing public and household production …

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