The world economy is based on ever-increasing population, said Nobel laureate Steven Chu, a scheme that economists don’t talk about and that governments won’t face, a scheme that makes sustainability impossible and that is likely to eventually fail.
“The world needs a new model of how to generate a rising standard of living that’s not dependent on a pyramid scheme,” Chu said at the University of Chicago.
Chu didn’t specify what that new model would look like, but he offered a solution to the population growth the current one relies on.
“Increased economic prosperity and all economic models supported by governments and global competitors are based on having more young people, workers, than older people,” Chu said. “Two schemes come to mind. One is the pyramid scheme. The other is the Ponzi scheme. I’m not going to explain them both to you, you can look it up. But it’s based on growth, in various forms.”
For example, healthy young workers pay the health care costs for aging workers and retirees, the former energy secretary said, a scheme that requires increasing numbers of young workers. And economic growth requires more and more people to buy more and more stuff, with dire environmental consequences.
There are at least two problems with that:
- “Depending on a pyramid scheme or a Ponzi scheme, there’s no such thing as sustainability,” Chu said.
2.As standards of living increase, population growth declines. So if the economy succeeds in raising standards of living, it undermines itself.