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From Limits to Growth to Limitless Growth

Forty years ago was a crucial turning point in human affairs, though it was poorly understood, disputed and even denied at that time. Three events stand out for their particular significance: the end of the Gold Standard in 1971, the publication of The Limits to Growth in 1972, and the first oil crisis in 1973. They marked the end of an era of rapid economic development for the industrialised countries, unalloyed optimism and unquestioned faith in capitalism, the beginning of a period of increasing doubt and uncertainty, which has now culminated in a multi-dimensional crisis of unparalleled proportions. Since then, the world has been wracked by increasing financial instability demarcated by more than 200 monetary currency crises and 145 large-scale banking crises. The average growth rate in Western Europe declined progressively from 6.1% in the 50s to 4.8% in the 60s and 2.3% in the 70s, then fell to less than 2% since 1990. The initial quadrupling of oil prices, an alarming reminder that non-renewable resources are actually non-renewable, spurred price inflation in the late 70s, which was only kept under control by tight monetary policy, slower growth, and rising levels of unemployment and income inequality in the decades that followed. Read More