From Limits to Growth to Limitless Growth

7. Future of Work
Never content with pure abstract theoretical reflections, Giarini always returns to the concrete practical problems of humanity and none today is more pressing than the future of employment. What purpose, he asks, does an economic system serve if it does not provide the most basic of all economic functions, access to the means of obtaining the essential necessities and non-essential components of a modern civilised life? Today hundreds of millions of able-bodied human beings, including more than 75 million youth, are deprived of access to gainful employment opportunities, not by their own or anyone else’s willful refusal but by the structural rigidities and blatant inequalities of an economic system that values money more than it values human welfare. While squandering the earth’s rare natural resources, it blindly neglects the most precious and perishable of all resources, human aspirations and capabilities.
Mindful of the utter failure of unregulated markets and unsocialised systems to address this most basic need, in 1996 he authored his third report to the Club of Rome The Employment Dilemma and The Future of Work in collaboration with Patrick Liedtke, his successor as Secretary General and Managing Director of the Geneva Association and a member of the Club of Rome and the World Academy of Art & Science. Written at the request of the then Club of Rome President Ricardo Diez Hochleitner and originally published in Spanish, the report traces the evolution and transformation of the nature of work from the agrarian age through the industrial revolution to the modern service economy. In this report the authors discard both market and socialist philosophies in favor of a pragmatic, comprehensive, four-layered solution designed to provide basic economic security to all, while optimising the incentives for those who have the capacity and will to work and earn more. Their objective is nothing less than full employment and economic security for all.
Recognising the essential role of higher education and life-long learning in any permanent solution to the employment challenge, this led naturally to the last of the four reports on the subject of university education and continuous training, The Double Helix (UNESCO, 2003) written in collaboration with another Club of Rome member and WAAS Fellow, Mircea Malitza. There they examine the mismatch between the human life cycle and education, the fragmentation of specialised disciplines, and the lack of integration between education and real life challenges. The report calls for a reorganisation of education into multi-disciplinary, integrated modules that combine all the knowledge required to address real work issues. Then in 2005, Giarini turned his attention to the lengthening of the life cycle and the problem of economic security and productive security for a progressively aging but ever more healthy and active elderly population, by establishing and editing the journal European Papers on The New Welfare: the counter-aging society.

8. Globalisation and Uncertainty
The 1970s opened a challenging new chapter in the unfolding saga of globalisation, vulnerability and the management of uncertainty. The new millennium marks a continuation of that evolutionary process, confirming the fears of many who believed that human progress was on the ebb and challenging the naysayers who vigorously rejected the earlier warnings. But the recent past is not merely more of the same. Over the past four decades the world has become far more interdependent and the foci of risk and vulnerability have largely shifted from the national to the global level. The threats of financial instability, unemployment, inequality, nuclear weapons, terrorism, pollution, resource depletion and climate change are more truly global than ever before.
Today, the world is confronted by two kinds of reality linked to human nature and its social organisation: the question of power and the legitimacy of national and international institutions. Power must be placed at the service of human freedom. Institutions must promote harmony and equity. Only then can human aspirations be fulfilled and the human propensity for destructive excesses controlled. “To what extent are the world’s economic institutions legitimate?” Giarini asks. Today acute scarcity and overflowing abundance exist side by side. It seems odd to speak of limits at a time when global financial assets exceed $216 trillion and $4 trillion circles the globe daily in search of speculative returns. The world is not suffering from shortages, but non-utilisation of precious human resources and misdirection of other capabilities away from the very points where they can make the greatest contribution and generate the greatest return for humanity.
All human achievement is founded on a bedrock of values. Values have no limit. Ultimately it is the values we choose to embrace that determine the real limits to growth. Narrow self-interest, mindless exploitation of earth, blindness to the needs of others, unbri­dled greed and extravagance can only take humanity so far. Our problems are of our own making and so are our opportunities. The very powers and institutions we forge to further our aims too easily become fetters that confine and enslave us. We are imprisoned by structures of our own device, simply because we refuse to open the door and walk out. Will humanity insist on clinging to broken systems out of fear to experiment, or will it have the courage to invent and innovate freer, fairer, more equitable, and more civilised arrangements for wealth creation and governance? Humanity’s ultimate challenge is not to cope with the forces of external nature or the problems of production, but rather to wrestle with and master human character and its inclinations.
Giarini has never been a prophet of doom. On the contrary, a close reading of his reports reveals an unparalleled potential for future prosperity. If the goal of economics is to truly generate prosperity and abundance for all, the knowledge can be found to accomplish it. Where others see the insecurity of uncertainty, he senses unrealised opportunities. That necessitates looking beyond secondary causes to discover the fundamental process of human development that propels social evolution. His study of both economic theory and the real economy convinced him that the theory was deficient, not humanity’s collective capacity to generate wealth for all. He has the insight and courage to look beyond the traditional boundaries and ‘scientific’ respectability of accepted concepts and econometric formulas to the vague hinterlands where economy merges in identity with the society of which it is a part and society engages in a creative interaction with the unformed potentialities of its own future. Still he gazes into the unknown, mindful of real and present dangers, but ever confident and hopeful of what will emerge.

8.1 Theory and Practice
Social theory can only be perfected in the cauldron of real life where the enormous complexity of living systems refines intellectual conception into practical strategy. Ever questioning, but never satisfied by the answers he himself could derive, he has the good sense and humility to know how much more there is to be known. His thought points compellingly to the unchartered boundaries of human social potential. What remains is for a society, even a community, to come forward to break out of the straight-jacket of arbitrary rules and constricting institutions to fully harness the enormous creative potential of its human and social capital. Full employment, equitable income distribution, life-long learning, ecological sustainability, welfare and well-being are the objectives. Freedom, harmony and equality are the values. An endless development of human capacity is the means. Unparalleled prosperity will be the result.
Economic evolution, whether in theory or practice, is inseparable from cultural evolution. That inevitably led Giarini to ponder the ultimate implications of a world in which scientific determinism and human choice seem to be juxtaposed in perpetual conflict. Is it possible to imagine a culture which reconciles social order and human security with the creative freedom to continuously evolve by exploring and engaging the unknown which contains the ultimate mystery of life? That is the challenge which now confronts science and humanity.

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