Chapter 5: The Club of Rome and the Limits to Growth

5. Strategy for Tomorrow  
After the publication of its report on The Limits to Growth, the Club of Rome continued to distribute a whole series of them right up to our day. Of course none of them achieved a success comparable to the first. Eduard Pestel and Mihajlo Mesarovic of Case Western University in Cleveland (United States) edited a second report entitled “Strategy for Tomorrow” in reply to the criticism of the first report, stating that in it the perception and analysis of the world had been made uniform. It was an unacceptable criticism because it was about understanding the earth’s global limits in terms of the use of resources, demographic increase and pollution.*
This second report, introduced by Robert Lattés, tended to “regionalise” the world in order to assess crisis situations by continents or large geographical areas. It also sought to deal with the criticism of the notion of crisis of growth, suggesting the idea of an “organic” growth. This term defined an intention to research (what can ever be “another” growth?) rather than a concrete result to be made use of. At that time I wasn’t in a position to suggest the structured complex of ideas that I later built. Besides the Club of Rome had no more than two or three “rebel” economists through whom an in depth discussion on the real state of economic development could be lauched.
Reports then followed one after the other on analysing important questions on the global view of the world in relation to problems of training and education, the electronic revolution, reevaluation of traditional agricultural systems in poor countries, the problem of authority and many others. I too threw myself into the mix producing no less than three reports written in English.
Anyway, on the question of the economic crisis I would like to underline what I wrote in 1993: ** “That which in the 1970s was interpreted as a problem of limits to economic growth in general, increasingly appears to be the description of the end of the great cycle of the classical Industrial Revolution. The simulations by Jay Forrester and Dennis Meadows indicate precisely this, not the end of economic growth as such, but rather the end of a certain kind of economic growth, that are based above all on hardware and machines instead of on software and organisational systems, on tangible products rather than services of every type. Of course an important part of economic activity will always depend on tools and hardware, just as today we need agricultural products. Now, however, within most traditional industrial and agricultural sectors service functions predominate”. This changes the general theoretical frame­work of economics, fundamental if we are to plan a new positive development. To begin with “The Wealth of Nations revisited” should be rewritten.
The first one published in 1980 by Pergamon Press in Oxford, was also released in Italy in 1981 with the title Dialogo sulla Richezza e il Benessere. *** The principal English publisher was none other than Robert Maxwell, head of Pergamon Press in Oxford, briefly a member of the Club of Rome and destined to end up badly some years later. He had the attitude of those the English refer to as tycoons. Of Czech origin he had adopted a name of convenience during the war and had been very active in the British Labour party. During the year in which he attended Club meetings, he initially had a very enterprising air and was socially open (after all he came from a decidedly left wing political experience). When witnessing the kind of debates that were held at the Club of Rome he was, I noticed, increasingly wide-eyed, and towards the end he would make small gestures of bad temper faced as he was with the obvious lack of interest, on the part of the Club of Rome, to get involved in business.
With my first report to the Club of Rome I had once again embarked on a rather demand­ing venture. I had no financial support and at the same time I had to keep my official job. It was enough to cause any good university teacher or researcher or serious laboratorian to tremble. The book had taken seed in the down time of my days, especially in airports. I would write on a seat in the waiting hall, or worse still I would record on my dictaphone. For my second report, The Limits to Certainty – Managing the Risks of the New Service Economy, published in French in 1989, I improved my work conditions, making use of texts written on some points I considered important and finding a collaborator, Walter Stahel, to put it all together and complete it.****

6. Alvin Toffler, Michel Albert…

On the other hand this new book had been born as a project in an attempt to create “The Risk Institute”. Already in 1986 I had succeeded in setting up an organising Committee in Paris. Its members included Raymond Barre, the Nobel Prize recipient Ilya Prigogine (like Alexander King, a successor to Aurelio Peccei as President of the Club of Rome), who would write the preface to the book, Montague March, Director General of Business Europe in Geneva, Richard Piani, an engineer-inventor, promoter of new technological enter­prises, Jean-Pierre Ritter, Swiss Ambassador to Vienna, André Danzin and Fabio Padoa. Also present were Alvin Toffler and his wife whom I had gotten to know well a few years earlier at a conference in Brussels organised by a large Japanese company, at the time when his theses on The Third Wave and Future Shock were causing a furor in the world, and particularly in Japan, where a two hour television programme and a comic book were made on the subject.
Alvin Toffler and his wife Heidi had been struck by my thesis and I had tried to convince them, even going to the United States for the purpose. In many respects I had done nothing more than directly follow The Third Wave analysis and I was hoping that he himself would decide to write a book to that effect. I had no pretension to appear as author while things said by him would have had an extraordinary resonance, even if economists avoided him somewhat. But it was seeking the impossible: to spread ideas through a world famous intellectual when they were not the fruit of his own labour was something quite unusual.*****
In any event I continued to like this ex-militant Trotskyite who, in order to gain an in depth knowledge of working conditions had, as a young man, worked in the mechanics industry where he had gotten his hands dirty. It was there that he had met his wife who, from what she told me, shared his objectives.
I tried the same tactic with Alvin Toffler’s French counterpart, his equivalent from the point of view of the success of his books on the Industrial Revolution and its relationship between Europe and the United States, Michel Albert. I had already made contact with him once before when I was very young, and he was Director General to the European Community in Brussels. I then met him very often particularly during the time when he was President of Assicurazioni Generali, France, the second biggest French group in that sector. He was the bard of modern industrialisation and I tried to help him understand the insurance sector – an important branch of the service activity – destined to become a key centre of contemporary economics. And he, Michel Albert was the head of the AGF!
Courteously and calmly I tried to set out my thoughts and ideas, paying a great deal of attention. I couldn’t risk having those who knew my main work believe that I was a hot-head­ed intellectual. Little by little I noticed that Michel understood and appreciated some of my ideas but, as with Toffler I could not get him to take on the initiative directly or person­ally. However with his advice he helped me to begin my third report.
For the second, written at the urging of Fabio Padoa, Managing Director of Generali, I had at my disposal a certain sum that he had given me saying that it came from an “anonymous benefactor”. Fabio Padoa had been President of the Geneva Association, my last great work adventure, for seven years. Fabio, diligent and personally committed to the work, re­­ceived no payment for this, apart from reimbursement of expenses.  It seemed to me that the sum put at my disposal for my report was none other than the total of the expenses in question. He did not admit this to me, but I felt I should report this example of an “honest man” in the hope of encouraging others and of refuting those who, before they even have an idea, ask if there is funding for it.
As it happened this money was not much needed. I had actually found a skilled American “researcher”, a descendant of Francois Villon. I had supplied him with some ideas and some articles and conference texts and he had the task of preparing the report on risks and vulnerability in the modern service economy. But right at a point when he was about to start a chapter on illnesses and medicine, he died of AIDS.
I took my notes back, extended them and found another solution with my principal collab­orator at the Geneva Association. After all, this book served to illustrate the key importance of risk management in the modern economy, and hence of the necessary growing role of insurance, on the basis of an ‘analysis’ that no insurer had ever suggested.
Considering the working methods of almost all the insurance sectors, I have had the priv­ilege of being able to make use of a unique analysis observatory to study the evolution of the service economy.

* See the ongoing various reports:
** “The limits to certainty”, ETAS Libri, Milan: (Preface by Ilya Prigogine), p. 13
*** Edizioni echientifiche e techniche Mondadori, Milan, Preface by Aurelio Peccei
**** In Italian “I limiti della Certezza”. Affrontare i rischi nella nuova economia di servizio”, ETAS LIBRI, Milan, 1993
***** Something of it remained in his “Power Shift”, Bantam-Doubleday Book, 1990, New York, pp 80, 482

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