How Much is Enough? Skidelsky & Skidelsky

In their 2012 book, How Much is Enough, the father-and-son team of Robert and Edward Skidelsky have bravely tackled the question of how much (consumption, GDP, growth) is enough. It is a very welcome addition to the discussion of Chapter 7, on Good Harmful and Useless Economic Activity, both because it recognises the problem of the Useless, and especially the non-essentials, but also and especially because it tries to offer a basis for calculating how much is enough (essential) - which very few others seem to do. This page offers a brief summary of their arguments and some critical but appreciative comments from our perspectives.

Chapter 1, Keynes' Mistake

Overall message: Keynes predicted in 1928 that GDP (of affluent nations) would grow over a few decades until all our needs were met and then level off. He was wrong. S+S discuss why Keynes got it so wrong.

S+S text or statement How this helps us or we interpret it How we critique or enrich S+S
Keynes saw us as aiming for "the good life", "bliss" (Ramsey) [p.16] Keynes' "good life" serves similar purpose as the notion of Multi-aspectual Overall Good - to define the mandate of economics.
This constituted his deepest belief ("religion"). [p.16-17]. So his prophecy ended in a religious-style flourish [p.16]. Pistic functioning is deep, fundamental and impacts all else. It is our believing what is most important.
Keynes' "good life", influenced by the Bloomsbury Group, was composed of "art, love and the quest for knowledge" [p.16-17] Notice the limited aspects of what Keynes felt was important: aesthetic, social (the kind that Keynes saw as love) and analytical, and which is rather individualistic and self-centred. Contrast with our Multi-aspectual Overall Good which treats all aspects as important, not least justice, self-giving love nor meaning in life (juridical, ethical, pistic).
Keynes employed economic logic [p.16], arguing that e.g. machines would provide all we need, so hours of work would fall to 15 hours per week [p.20] Reasoning that is meaningful in the economic aspect. But rather reductionist; there are many reasons why Keynes was wrong that are invisible through the lens of the economic aspect.
Keynes' motivation was to show that capitalism could, and should, be harnessed to this end [p.17]. We embrace valid insights from capitalism as well as its alternatives.
Keynes' prophecy proved false [p.20]. Today, "... many lower paid workers are working less than then want to, while many of the rick are working more than they need to." [.23] Keynes was bound to be wrong because he ignored the functioning in several important aspects, which impact economic and other activity.
"The awkward question Keynes did not face was how far the rich should go in postponing the arrival of their own "Bliss" to help the poor." [p.21] Keynes overlooked what was meaningful in the juridical and ethical aspects, i.e. justice, mercy and self-giving love.
S+S discuss three questions about Keynes [p.25ff]
  • "Why did [Keynes] ever think it was plausible?" - K failed to distinguish wants from needs.
  • "Why did Keynes think that the more income people had the less they would want to work?" - "Economic growth has no natural tendency to stop. If it comes to a halt, it will be because people "choose not to want more than they need." [p.26]
  • In this, S+S are recognising functioning in aspects other than the economic, especially those of psychology. Choosing is often functioning in the formative aspect with some pistic.
  • "And why did he fix on a four to eightfold increase [in GDP] as 'enough'?" [p.25] - K "was thinking only about a middle-class standard of life." [p.36]
  • Keynes had a limited cultural viewpoint - as did many in Europe and America at that time. We maintain a global viewpoint, because of both our Dooyeweerdian (multi-aspectual) perspective and our Christian perspective.
    Keynes assumed we would live wisely! But we do not. [p.28] Human beings as a whole do not live wisely but selfishly and sinfully, especially when they have more than enough. We see unwisdom as (a) unduly elevating some aspects and ignoring others, (b) human sin, especially of selfishness and idolatry (hidden agendas, etc.). S+S do not acknowledge human sin, and try to explain everything without that concept. In our view, this is a weakness in their argument.

    Nor do S+S acknowledge mindset and attitude (pistic, ethical functioning) that, hidden, impacts all we do.

    S+S discuss 3 reasons why Keynes was wrong. Useful.
  • Some people enjoy work, but Keynes assumed all work was toil [p.27-31].
  • We would see this as the aesthetic aspect of the multi-aspectual functioning that is work. Both paid and unpaid work. Neither Keynes nor S+S acknowledge unpaid work such as household activity, voluntary work and caring.
  • Some are compelled to work [p.30-33].
  • Though some compulsion to work might be valid, the word "compelled" usually connotes some injustice, which is meaningful in the juridical aspect. In this, we share concern with left-wing economists.
  • Insatiability [p.33-42]: we keep on wanting more and more.
  • We see insatiability, in which wants and desires must be fulfilled, as greed (human sin) and as a major source of non-essentials.
    Left-wing economists tend to ignore insatiability [p.33]; right wing tend to ignore the injustices of people compelled to work. We see left- and right-wing economists as finding different aspects important (juridical versus formative-economic). In this way, like S+S, we tend to acknowledge both sides.
    S+S discuss insatiability at length [p.33-42], distinguishing different kinds of good that people 'want' rather than need: oligarchic, prestige, etc. and three types of spending to enhance status: bandwagon, snob, Veblen goods. Helpful in understanding non-essentials.

    [p.33ff] It is (religious or ideological) faith that provides strong motivation to resist insatiability.

    Capitalism makes it worse with (a) advertising, (b) making us want to climb up the income ladder, (c) monetizing everything [p.40-1]. [p.40-1] Multiple aspectual functionings in capitalism: (a) lingual, (b) pistic-social, (c) quantitative-economic. Implies that not just capitalism is to blame, but any system could fail in one or more of these.
    "capitalism inflames love of money for its own sake." [p.41] [p.41] "Love of money is a root of all kinds of evil." This is mindset.
    Overall comment on Chapter 1: This is a very useful chapter about economic growth, GDP and Keynes, especially as it recognises what we have called the Useless economic activity of producing non-essentials. S+S try to explain Keynes' mistake largely through the lens of only the economic and psychical aspects (with some reference to other aspects), but ignore especially the pistic (and maybe ethical) aspect dysfunction that underlies those.

    Chapter 2, The Faustian Bargain

    S+S text or statement How this helps us or we interpret it How we critique or enrich S+S
    Capitalist civilization: "It was a civilization which unleashed bad motives for the sake of good results. Morality had to be put in cold storage till abundance was achieved, for abundance would make possible a good life for all. ... We have called this bargian 'Faustian' ..." [p.43] S+S's implication is that this is false. How to understand this? The "bad motives" and "morality" are functioning in ethical and pistic aspect (attitude and mindset), "abundance" is a distorted norm of the economic aspect, and "make possible a good life for all" is the partly-valid belief that when we function (towards Overall Multi-aspectual Good, or Harm) what we see as resources though an economic lens are objects in that functioning. The falseness is because (a) the true norm of the economic aspect is frugality rather than not abundance; (b) what we employ resources to do is often to generate Harm rather than Good; (c) our mindset is often idolatrous and our attitude is often self-centred.
    "'For another hundred years,' Keynes wrote, 'we must pretend to ourselves that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer yet. For only they can lead us out of the runnel of economic necessity into daylight.'" [p.43] Here is the idolatrous mindset set out clearly.
    "On the way, the idea of moral limits to human ambition, which underpinned all pre-modern conceptions of the good life was lost, and dormant energies of creativity and destructiveness were set free in the hope that they would carry humanity to a pinnacle of achievement and mastery of the natural world." [p.43-4] That was the deep motivation and mindset of the Renaissance and Enlightenment. Dooyeweerd characterizes it as the shift from the Scholastic, nature-grace ground-motive to the Humanist, nature-freedom ground-motive.
    The Idea of Utopia: From Dream to History
    S+S review several ideas of a supposedly perfect good life, in which all the resources we might ever need for fulfilment of our desires are available free, from the Greeks, mediaeval Cockaigne, More's Utopia, 1920's Big Rock Candy Mountain. Some, they suggest, would horrify us today. [p.44-5] These all embody what, in our mindset, we deem most meaningful and good. And the attitudinal presupposition of all is self-centredness. Today's mindset, and therefore set of idols, is different.
    "The book of Revelation ... prophesies 'a new heaven and a new earth', in which 'there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.' The milleniarian seed lies deep in the Christian consciousness ... But ... St Augustine ... positioned his 'city of God' not at the end of history but outside time altogether, abandoning the 'city of man' to its old cyclical fate. However, the potential for intermingling was always there, ... cast a long subterranean shadow, stretching all the way to Hegel and Marx." [p.46] S+S get is almost right, but not quite. As Tom Wright [2023] for example explains, the 'kingdom of God' entered the world in effectual power at the coming of Christ, who will come again to wind up history and renew Earth and Heaven. Until then we live in the 'Overlap' period, in which we experience the power of Christ (and the Holy Spirit) here and now but along with the power of human sin, especially those of idolatrous mindset and selfish attitude. Those who truly follow Christ are tasked with bringing Blessing and Healing to the entire Creation, including both human lives and nature, as a 'seed' of what will One Day germinate in the New Earth and Heavens. S+S tend to blame Christianity (especially Protestant forms) for our ills; though partly correct, they misunderstand and hence throw away valid and useful insights to be contributed from that stream; see Chapter 3, Section 5.
    The Economists: From Avarice to Self-interest
    "The Renaissance invented - or rediscovered - the idea of using human desires to govern societies, rather than castigating them as wicked. ... The test of virtue in politics is success, not goodness. ... Thomas Hobbes and John Locke both followed Machiavelli indepicting government as a contricance for satisfying human desires peacefully, not proscribing them." [p.47] Dooyeweerd charts the transition from the Scholastic Nature-Grace ground-motive that governed Roman Catholic thought in the Middle Ages (human desires as wicked), to the Humanistic Nature-Freedom ground-motive of the Renaissance and Enlightenment (proscribing versus satisfying). To Dooyeweerd, all are meaningful in terms of different aspects; psychical and biotic are usually the aspects in which "human desires" are discussed and seen as valid - though psychology is finding other aspects, especially the ethical and pistic affect, and are expressed in, them. "Peacefully" is meaningful in the juridical, aesthetic and social aspects, "proscribing", in the juridical and formative aspects.
    "... hypocrisy of those who enjoyed the benefits of avarice and luxury while preaching against it." [p.48] This was one of the straws that broke the camel's back of the mediaeval / Scholastic mindset, and also to some extent all religion, and ushered in the Humanist one.
    "Mandeville's moral is plain: you can have riches and vice, or poverty and virtue, but not riches and virtue. Which do you want?" [p.49] As S+S then argue, and also Jackson in Prosperity without Growth, Dooyeweerd's argues that we can have "riches and virtue" and indeed it is "virtue" that ensures sustainable "riches". Functioning well in all aspects ("virtue") goes 'with the grain of Reality' and ensures Multi-aspectual Overall Good ("riches"). Dysfunction in any aspect undermines this, though it might allow temporary, unsustainable maximization in another aspect.
    "The trick was to redefine virtues and vices to bring them into line with economic utility and disutility." [p.49] Indeed so: idolize, absolutize the economic aspect as the sole determiner of what is Good.
    Adam Smith's introduction of self-interest as the very "gravity" of economics, and competition as aiding the "invisible hand", turned avarice into a virtue rather than vice. [p.50] S+S give the usual interpretation of Smith. In fact, "self-interest" (actually "self-love") and "invisible hand" were rarely used in his writings, and their popularity owes more to the mindset and attitude of those who followed and reinterpreted him than to Smith himself. In fact, we argue, that Smith himself did not intend the selfishness that has pervaded economics ever since, and was seeking to understand the kernel meaning of the economic aspect without recourse to the ethical functioning of benificence. He did in fact presuppose that aspect would occur alongside the economic, calling it "sympathy" but he wanted to draw a clear distinction between the two aspects of reality. S+S do acknowledge Smith's valuing of "sympathy" [p.51] and even Smith's concern that repetitive work leads to "torpor of mind" [Smith, Moral Sentiments, 461], but treat these as "the mask has slipped" [p.52]. Against S+S we treat Smith as genuinely concerned about these - because we have a multi-aspectual view while S+S privilege the economic aspect above others.
    Adam Smith did not talk about economic growth, but about "improvement". He assumed that his idea of market economic would contribute to improvement in people's lot. [p.53] "Imrpovement" is a bit like our Multi-aspectual Overall Good, and it does not presuppose economic growth, but rather good functioning in all aspects by all.
    Faust as Literary Metaphor
    S+S discuss the various versions of Faust, and by implication the various versions of how capitalism leads to, or requires, moral decadence. [p.54-8] Moral decadence is a dysfunction in various other aspects, especially those of attitude and mindset, not just the economic aspect. Whereas S+S argue from literary parallels, we argue from the reality of aspects and their functioning. We wonder whether, since there is no direct, necessary causality between aspects, it is possible in theory that capitalism contains some valid insights. But that how it operates has been impacted by dysfunction in other aspects, especially mindset and attitude, which S+S largely overlook.
    The Failed Apocalypse of Karl Marx
    "Marx was the first economist to give capitalism's destructiveness its proper moral weight." [p.58]
    "Marx presented a compelling case for why capitalism should come to an end, not why it would. [S+S show how Marx's arguments for why it would, all fail.] He failed to reckon on the continuing dynamism of the capitalist system, its ability to overcome obstacles. Marx was blind to the temptations of dialectical reasoning." [p.63] Marx had a clear grasp of the normativity of some of the aspects, especially the juridical, but failed to understand functioning and repercussions in some aspects, which are discussed in Chapter 6. Because of this, his understanding on the economic aspect was limited and narrow. It may be that some of the insights that capitalism offers are genuinely there in the economic aspect, not least the operation of capital (store of resource). And that the evils it has brought on the world arise from various aspects. It would be useful for aspectual research to be carried out on what these are.
    The Failed Pay-off: From Marx to Marcuse
    Whereas other utopias of life free from toil and struggle were mainly about work and leisure, the 1960s utopia was about sexual freedom without any need for work [p.64]. Partly because, many of those involved were university students, for whom "The world of work was further away ... five or six years further away ..." [p.65]. A major philosopher of this was Herbert Marcuse.
    "Marcuse's fundamental error was that of allutopians, he closed his eyes to the obvious fact of 'original sin'. It was this that allowed him to view all the evils attendant on sex - jealousy, pornography, sadism and so forth - as produces of its repression by capitalism. Remove that repression, and sex would revert automatically to the condition of childlike innocence. ... Marcuse overlooked the depth not only of lust but of greed." [p.68] We take human sin seriously, and are glad to find S+S doing so too. We bring a specific and systematic understanding of human sin, as needing more than just removal of conditions or provision of education or incentives; we treat sin as of the human heart, requiring repentance. See Chapter 3
    Capitalism "remains so unloved. It has given us wealth beyond measure, but has taken away the chief benefit of wealth, the consciousness of having enough." [p.69] Interesting, useful statement.
    "Capitalism, it is now clear, has no spontaneous tendency to evolve into something nobler." [p.70] If capitalism is meaningful solely in the economic aspect, then that is exactly what one would expect, because "nobler" is not meaningful in the economic aspect but in other aspects, especially the ethical, and there is no automatic causality between aspects.
    S+S then suggest looking at pre-modern, pre-Enlightnement views of economics, which he does in Chapter 3. We applaud that: embrace all views, though critically. Most economists dismiss pre-modern views out of hand.

    Chapter 3, The Uses of Wealth

    Overall Message: Modern economics is out of step with all other cultures and eras, in treating money as a valid aim for its own sake; they all treat it as a means to 'the good life'. Given the failure of capitalism and economic growth to keep their promises, should we not return to the idea of the good life? This chapter is very interesting, and easy to read.

    Our response: We agree. But our idea of the 'good life', Multi-aspectual Overall Good, is richer and better grounded philosophically.

    S+S text or statement How this helps us or we interpret it How we critique or enrich S+S
    "Pre-Enlightenment economic thought is often dismissed as a hotch-potch of bigotry and ignorance. But the failure of the modern age to make good its [modernity's] utopian promise casts it [pre-modernity] in a kinder light." [p.70] So S+S discuss pre-modern economic thought in this Chapter. Interesting. Mueller's Redeeming Economics also returns to pre-modern ideas, to Aquinas' Scholastic ideas to emphasise relationships and love as central to economics, which, he says, have been lost to economics since Adam Smith. But we ask "is [pre-modern] Scholasticism, with its nature-supernature dichotomy, really a good foundation for understanding economics as a whole?" We will see when, in the next chapter, S+S discuss the insights that pre-modern ideas might give us.
    "Before the Faustian project took wing, thinking about wealth was governed by the idea of limits. The exact location of these limits was disputed, but their existence was never in doubt. Virgil, Machiavelli and St Francis could all agree on this point, whatever else their differences. Writers from as far afield as India and China could also agree on it, as we shall see." [p.71] (By contrast, modern economics rejects or at least ignores the idea of limits in rejecting the idea of enough.) 1. Modern economics goes against the entire world and entire history, and is thus, statistically, unlikely to be true.
    2. Interesting that Dooyeweerd makes limits, and frugalaity, the central fact of the economic aspect. He follows Robbins in this.
    "Aristotle is the classic source of pre-modern economic thought ... the dominant influence on economic theorizing from the twelfth to the seventeenth century." [p.71] Yes, indeed! Roman Catholic thought was so influenced by Aristotle that some were excommunicated for questioning Aristotle. Yet, as Dooyeweerd and others argue, Aristotle misled Christian thought. However, many of Aristotle's ideas parallel Dooyeweerd's; they need to be taken seriously as genuine and valuable insights. ...
    To Aristotle, the economic is to do with household management. His discussion of acquisition and exchange is "overridingly ethical and political;" "commerce is presented as an aspect of our life in common,subject like all other aspects to justice and its sister virtues." [p.72]. This shows a multi-aspectual view in Aristotle, economics as embedded among other human activities (see Chapter 4), and it influenced much until the modern era.
    "There was no economics for Aristotle because there was no economy ... Aristotle's innocence of 'the economic' as a category is hardly surprising. ... Most households were self-sufficient ... Money was widespread but there was little capital or credit. ... a telos, a state of fulfilment ... the good life ..." [p.72] Dooyeweerd's idea of an economic aspect, whose kernel norm is frugality, intertwined with other aspects, all aspects implying norms for living, and meaningfulness of all we do, parallels Aristotle closely. Dooyeweerd, however, had at least two advantages that Aristotle did not:

    • 2000 years of experience of human opening-up the various aspects, including the economic (the idea of an economy), the formative (technology), etc., which indicated the potential inherent in the aspects of the Creation. Hence a wider set of aspects than Aristotle left us with.
    • Orientation to meaningfulness rather than to existence, so telos had grounding, and a basis for critique, rather than just emanating from the discourse of philosophers.

    Aristotle's "vision of the good life ... has no room for the joys of nature, of solitude, of artistic creation or religious ecstasy, for all the things that Christianity and romanticism have taught us to appreciate." [p.77, from next chapter but relevant here] Dooyeweerd's aspects cover these: biotic, social, aesthetic, pistic-psychical, with their meaningfulness 'discovered' during the 2000 years. That is why, in later chapters, we find S+S' idea of the good life limited.
    "... use-value ... exchange-value ... Money is the serpent in the Garden, for it suggests the possibility, unknown to barter, of buying things, not in order to use them but to sell them. ... Houses, farms and utensils are stripped of their true purpose and converted into so many indifferent repositories of monetary value." [p.74-5] Yes: houses become "investments" rather than "homes". Dooyeweerd does not seem to deal with either very well; his discussion of the economic aspect is too brief. So we develop his ideas here.
    "Money is the one thing of which there is never enough, for the simple reason that the concept 'enough' has no logical application to it. There is perfect health and happiness, but there is no perfect wealth." [p.75] "'Never is there satisfaction; never will there be an end in sight for the greedy.'" [p.79] Useful point.
    Economic Attitudes in Europe and Asia
    "Aristotle's vision of the good life may be parochial, but his assumption that there is a good life, and that money is merely a means to its enjoyment, has been shared by every great civilization except our own. ... Followers of Judaism, Christianity and Islam were all able to make use of this framework; parallels to it can even be found in civilizations as radically alien to the West as India and China. In face of this massive agreement, it is our own devotion to accumulation as an end in itsself that stands out as an anomaly, as something requiring explanation." [p.78] This speaks a reason for our Rethink / Reframing being so radical, starting in Chapter 4 with discussion of the meaning and mandate of economics as both a field and a sphere of life.
    India: "A clear set of attitudes to wealth and trade emerge from the Dharmasutras ... not unlike those we have already encountered in Aristotle and the Scholastics." Wealth (artha) must be subservient to law or righteousness (dharma). [p.80] What this suggests is that this multi-aspectual intertwinement and mutual responsibility is intuitively grasped across all cultures. That is what Dooyeweerd claimed.
    "In like manner, when a man follows the Law, he obtains,in addition, other benefits." [p.80] This accords with Christian and other religious teaching, in that heart-obedience to God brings unexpected benefits ("rewards"?). It also accords with what we might expect from the idea of multi-aspectual functioning bringing repercussions in unexpected aspects.
    China: "In reality [China and India] civilizations were almost as alien to each other as each was to the West." [p.82] Useful to remember, so what is common is even more important.
    China: "deep mistrust of the aescetic impulse" [p.82], the impulse that India shares with the West. "Here there was no stigma attached to trade or usury ... On the contrary, money was frankly ... celebrated." Interesting.
    However, "old China was not a civilization devoted to accumulation for its own sake ... wealth was a means to [various ends]." [p.83] All three civilizations saw money as means to ends, not an end in itself. This is how we see money.
    "Here again is the notion, already encountered in the West and India, of a qualitative gulf between 'higher' and 'lower' ways of life, a gulf unbridgeable by any quantity of money." [p.83] But to Dooyeweerd, though there is a qualitative difference (born of irreducibility among aspects) there is no gulf, and especially no aspect is 'higher' or 'lower' than any other. Dooyeweerd emphasises their equal importance in principle.
    "The old civilizations of Europe, India and China all shared a basically Aristotelian outlook, even if it was not drawn from Aristotle. All viewed commerce as properly subordinate to politics and contemplation, while at the same time recognising and fearing its capacity to subdue these other activities to its own end. All regarded the love of money for its own sake as an aberration. Such agreement among these great and independent cultures ought to give us pause." [p.86] The Western idol of money is false.
    The Eclipse of the Good Life
    "For all its vestigial resonance, the idea of the good life no longer forms part of public discussion in the Western world. Politicians argue their case in terms of choice, efficiency or the protection of rights. They do not say, 'I think this policy will help people leave fruitful, civilized lives." [p.86] An important point, to be cited in Chapter 4 on mindset of economics.

    1. However, we would not call the idea of good life "vestigial". It might not form part of public discussion and especially not academic, but can we not find it underlying that public or academic discussion? As we point out, when introducing Multi-aspectual Overall Good, many economists who discuss economics as a whole rather some technical detail implies some 'good' that they presuppose as an aim of economics. So do most politicians, and indeed almost anyone who criticises anyone.

    2. However, it does not appear in "public discussion" because this is trapped in a hegemony of what is meaningful to talk about. This is why we explicitly discuss the meaning and mandate of economics in Chapter 4, to bring the idea of good life into explicit discourse.

    "If there is no such thing as the good life, then acquisition has no absolute goal, only the relative one of 'as much as' or 'more than' the others; a goal which, since it is shared by those others, must recede forever into the distance. The vanishing of all intrinsic ends leaves us with only two options: to be ahead or to be behind. Positional struggle is our fate." [p.86-7] r4 mg quantitative
    "Economists - we generalize, but not grossly - conscientiously abstain from passing judgement on wants." [p.88] This is because all economic activity is presumed Good. But it is not. We clearly differentiate them in Chapter 7.
    The removal of the idea of the good life removes other things too: 1. the difference between needs and wants; 2. that between necessities and luxuries; 3. the idea of 'enoughness'; 4. use-value, replacing it with exchange-value. [p.89-91] This is why we have Chapter 4, and also find Dooyeweerd's idea of meaningfulness so useful. It is also why we have introduced the importance of differentiating Good, Harmful and Useless economic activity, Chapter 7.
    "But if there is no such thing as the good life, then 'necessities' can refer only to subsistence goods such as food and shelter, or to the requirements of a particular social role." [p.90] Indeed so. Food and shelter are meaningful in the biotic and psychical aspects, which govern plants and animals. If however, we recognise the good life as including Good in each aspect, then we have a philosophical basis for redefining "necessities" much more broadly, as we discuss in Chapter 7 on Non-essentials. We also draw attention to the challenge that if we define it more broadly, then unscrupulous, selfish people will try to argue that their non-essential is essential, by referring to a particular aspect, such as the aesthetic, when in fact their heart (mindset, attitude) is idolatrous.
    "'Value', wrote Carl Menger, a pioneer of the new approach, 'is nothing inherent in goods, no property of them ... It is a judgement economizing men make about the importance of the goods at their disposal." [p.90] Yes and no!. Menger conflates (financial) value with values (as Mark Carney differentiates them). Yes, economic value is indeed a judgement we who employ resources make about them, as value to us in that specific incident of functioning. No, value transcends us, made possible by the meaning kernels of aspects, because without them even our functioning is meaningless. Do S+S also conflate them?
    "Understood in its original sense, as real usefulness rather than mere utility in consumpton, use-value can no more be transformed into exchange-value than colour into length." [p.91] Because meaningful in different aspects, especially when monetized. See our provisional aspectual understanding of it.
    "Economists have no ambition to remake human nature." [p.92] This is why input from religious perspectives is so important, because some of them care about remaking or transforming human nature.
    "Economics is not just any academic discipline. It is the theology of our age, the language that all interests, high and low, must speak if they are to win a respectful hearing in the courts of power." [p.93] This is what we call idolatrous mindset towards economics, discussed in Chapter 4. Economics has become an "idol of our time" [Goudzwaard 1984], which determines what we say and thing, and to which we sacrifice all else. This is a strong reason why we must repent, not just reform our theories or practice. It is an attitude of heart.
    "Economics owes its special position in part to the failure of other disciplines to impress their stamp on political debate. ... Economics has been left in sole possession of the field. ... [some examples] ...[because of] a breakdown of institutional authority." [p.92] Interesting point. We think it is more nuanced than mere breakdown of institutional authority, though this is a contributor or maybe a symptom. It is to do with the pistic functioning and social functioning of agreement across society about what is ultimately meaningful. Currently, it is economics that is: the idol of economics.
    "The idea of the good life is a universal of human thought, cropping up independently the world over. We alone have seen fit to eliminate it." [p.93] As said before.
    "The eclipse of the good life explains the endless expansion of wants" [p.94] Pistic functioning / mindset of Humanism.
    Can all hope to enjoy 'the good life'? "The visions of the good life described in this chapter were confined to small elites living off the labour of others, often of slaves. Traditional economies were unable to support any greater number at above subsistence level. Now, for the first time in history , we are in a position to rectify this secular injustice. We have the material ability to extend the good life ... But what if the good life is not just contingently but in principle unavailable to all members of society ...? What if it is an inhererently snobbish ... concept, one premised upon the existence of ways of life that are not good? The suspicion is uncomfortably plausible. ... A full response to this objection must wait until Chapter 6. But ... our vision of the good life is not premised on a contrast with other, lower ways of life. ... This restriction rules out a good deal of pre-modern ethics. ... Just because an idea of the good life has been historically bound up with privilege, it does not follow that it logically entails privilege." [p.94-5] That is a fair question. Both Christian hope and Dooyeweerdian philosophy give a glimpse of ways in which all may enjoy 'the good life', or Multi-aspectual Overall Good. Their answer, however, involves recognition of the reality of sin (as S+S do in one place above) the need for repentance, and looking to God for salvation, which is nevertheless worked out through those who respond.
    "Before outlining our vision of the good life, we must look at a couple of other influential attempts to halt the growth juggernaut. The first appeals to the concept of happiness, the second to that of sustainability." [p.95] (Those are the next two chapters)

    Chapter 4, The Mirage of Happiness

    Overall Message: Happiness Economics might be a useful antidote to growthist economics, but it itself is not enough.

    S+S text or statement How this helps us or we interpret it How we critique or enrich S+S
    "Economists have long indicted economic growth for failing to make us happy." [p.96] Happiness is of a different aspect (probably the aesthetic aspect) than is economics and especially growth (quantitative aspect). There is no causality between aspects (though there is some inter-aspect dependency) so economic functioning can never guarantee aesthetic functioning that is happiness. So Happiness Economics is a move towards embedding economics among spheres meaningful in other aspects.
    But happiness economics is in danger of becoming yet another idol. "We do not want to banish the engineers of growth only to see them replaced by the engineers of bliss." [p.97] "To go from the pursuit of growth to the pursuit of happiness is to turn from one false idol to another." [p.123] One of the problems about economic growth, and economics currently, is the mindset that it isolates itself from other spheres, unduly elevating the economic and quantitative aspects above all. The problem is not the elevated aspect itself (e.g. economic, quantitative) but is the undue elevation itself. Or, in another word, reductionism.
    Happiness differs from pleasure and joy. [p.117-8] Useful distinctions. In our Multi-aspectual Overall Good, we have space for all three, if we see them as meaningful in different aspects. Though S+S argue the flaws in Happiness Economics, they do not turn to the Economics of Joy, which would probably overcome some of these flaws.
    S+S then briefly outline a history of understanding happiness, starting from the ancient Greek tale of wealthy Croesius and Solon, through to modern economics: "The nineteenth century assumed that greater wealth would lead to greater happiness ... But all modern economists can say is that it maximizes utility, meaning 'satisfaction of consumer preferences'. [p.100-1]" A useful set of ideas about happiness. S+S ignore Biblical writings on happiness and joy (though they do acknowledge some Scholastic Christian ideas, emanating largely from Aristotle). So they miss many valuable insights.
    S+S then discuss Happiness Economics [p.101-7]
    They present a striking graph that shows (real, per-capita) GDP doubling over 40 years while average happiness remains largely the same. Happiness is by no means generated by economic growth. This motivates many to move away from growthist economics to happiness economics. [p.103] There is a fundamental flaw with this graph, discussed below, but let us first consider why economic growth might not causally increase happiness. We could see this as support for our belief that there is no causality between aspects. But must be careful.
    "Psychological experiments appear to confirm that relative, not absolute, income is what matters to most people." [p.104] Useful. But we would also ask why even relative income should be important to us, if we have enough.
    "Many of the best things in life ... are essentially limited in supply and so accessible only to the richest." [p.104] Left-wing economists would see an injustice here: The poor should be able to obtain all that the rich can obtain. Though we partly agree with that, we ask why the poor should be able to obtain all that the rich obtain, when much of this is Harmful. Rather, should not the rich give up their Harmful economic activity? See Chapter 7.
    "... the lust for gain remains powerful even in the wealthiest countries." [p.104] Human sin of greed and pride. Being sin, it is ultimately destructive.
    S+S then offer two 'equations' for happiness: (a) as proportional to increase of income; (b) as proportional to the difference between my income and the average or median income. [p.105] Both these are trying to explain happiness through the lens of the economic aspect alone. That is distortive. Happiness is of the aesthetic aspect, and hence follows the laws of that aspect, not those of the economic.
    "What's Wrong With Happiness Economics?" S+S discuss two weaknesses in Happiness Economics, (a) how happiness is measured, (b) "ethical" issues about what exactly happiness is. [p.107-123]. Useful.
  • On measuring happiness [p.107-113]. (i) In the graph happiness is measured by asking people how happy they are, by qualitative options given a measurement of 1-4; since the average comes out as 3.15, even if all people gave a score of 4 (all supremely happy) it would be only a small increase. (ii) When people are asked to quantify how happy they are (scale 0-10), what does each number mean? (iii) International comparisons cannot be made because of cultural differences in reporting happiness. (iv) Words in different languages include different things in happiness. (v) Various other statistical problems.
  • Useful for Chapter 5.
  • Ethical problems [p.113-23]. Happiness is not aggregative, nor is it "one-dimensional" [i.e. quantitative, rankable] in the way money is.
  • This relates to our discussion of appropriateness of quantitative assessment in Chapter 5.
    Happiness is linked to "important human goods: love, childbirth and completion of an important piece of work." [p.119] Such things are things closely qualified by the kernel meaning of various aspects (ethical, biotic, formative). Since each aspect offers its own unique Good, it is possible to link happiness to each, as a target aspect. Might happiness be seen as a (aesthetic) response to the fulfilment of a norm of each aspect?
    "It does not make sense ... to suggest that someone found deep happiness in, say, a victory in a running dispute with a neighbour ..." [p.119] True happiness never occurs over an aspectual dysfunction (in this case ethical dysfunction of self-elevation and competitiveness).
    "We have tried to show that a happy life, as most of us really understand that phrase, is not just a string of agreeable mental states but one that embodies certain basic human goods." [p.120] "Basic human goods" is another way of saying "the meaning kernel of aspects"
    Happiness is not a good in itself, "not intrinsically good". Some happiness is indeed warranted, but some sadness is also warranted, such as grief over a death [p.121]. Very useful reminder. This is also true of aesthetic responses. Sadness as well as happiness can be good aesthetic functioning.
    But some happiness, and some sadness, is unwarranted [p.121] Warrant and unwarrant are juridical terms, and thus speak of laws of aspects. Sadness that is depresssion is unwarranted, as a dysfunction or harm in the psychical aspect [p.123].

    Chapter 5, Limits to Growth: Natural or Moral?

    Overall Message: Do not base the idea of 'enough' on limits to growth and possible environmental danger, nor on moral or intrinsic value of nature, but on "good life environmentalism" in which humanity is in harmony with nature.

    Our response: Their view is useful as far as it goes, better than many viewpoints, and humans in harmony with nature does have flavours of taking all aspects seriously. However, our view is that all three are valid, rather than rejecting the first two, and we would also add a fourth standpoint centred on responsibility and love rather than mere harmony.

    Chapter 6, Elements of the Good Life

    Overall message: "The good life" means that several "basic goods" are in adequate supply, to enable the following actual functioning: health, security, respect, personality, harmony with nature, friendship, and leisure. When we have these, then we may be said to have "enough". So, this list seems to be offered as an answer to the title "How Much is Enough?" S+S then discuss how these may be realized.

    Overall comment: This list is good as far as it goes, and we applaud their explicit recognition of the value of nature, but it misses much. These cover only certain aspects, and things like achievement (formative aspect), knowledge (analytical), communicability (lingual), self-giving love (ethical) are missing, and art (aesthetic) and religion (pistic) are explicitly excluded.

    ===== ghere 17 February 2024
    S+S text or statement How this helps us or we interpret it How we critique or enrich S+S
    "The environmentalist case against growth likes to present itself as a rational response to established facts. Yet its secret spirit remains that of romanticism. ... The covertly religious character of the Green movement ..." [p.124] That is, there is a religious root to the Green movement. Dooyeweerd would affirm that. Underlying all theory there is a kind of world view that Dooyeweerd called a religious ground-motive, a "spiritual driving force that acts as the absolutely central mainspring of human society". The ground-motive currently in force is dualistic, forcing movements to utterly reject others, rather than recognising insights in them. Thus the seemingly romanticist rejection of economic growth. 1. Not only is the Green movement religiously grounded but so is the growthist movement.
    2. The 'religion' underlying growthism is Humanism: humans are gods, and so 'ought' to please ourselves, and thus may do what we like with the non-human, without being curbed by responsibility.
    3. The 'religion' underlying the Green movement is partly Romanticism, as S+S suggest, but not only. It is also partly one that tells us that a sense of responsibility is important, yet S+S hardly recognise that, if at all.
    4. The antithesis between the two sides is driven not only by those religious commitments but also by a sense that the other side is arrogant, imposing their superiority. This breeds disdain and anger on both sides, resulting in lack of mutual understanding.
    5. (Might we sense some anti-environmental mindset in S+S? Especially since they nearly-describe environmentalists who warn of consequences as "extremists" [p.125].)
    6. We take a different view, informed by the non-dualistic ground-motive of Creation-Fall-Redemption, which leads us to recognise valid insights in all views, rather than either-or, and thus embrace all sides.
    "The clash is one of world-views: Promethean optimism on the one hand, piety before nature on the other." [p.124] As above, the clash is not so much of facts but ways of seeing things, different views of what is important, and commitment to those. (The word "piety before" might imply some acknowledgement of responsibility, but I sense they are linking it to romanticism.)
    "But the utilitarian cast of our public discourse requires us to talk instead of offsets and emissions." [p.124] Discourse is what is visible, and the way it is conducted depends on society's mindset. Rationalism and the desire to win arguments is an important part of that, so measurable 'facts' will tend to be used.
    S+S then discuss three approaches that environmentalists take: limits to growth, ethical approach, and harmony with nature. But they ignore the Responsibility approach, and instead subsume it into others.
    Limits to Growth
    Limits to Growth [p.125-131]

    Keynes and Malthus argued that growth (economic, population) would stop. But "Global warming is quite unlike previous Malthusian scares, in scale and in character. ... flooding, drought, plague, and, on a worst case scenario, the total destruction of human life. Its elimination requires the abandonment not just of this or that luxury but of coal, gas and oil - the lifeblood of industrial civilization." [p.127]

    Good point. We call for change in mindset and attitude as a way to bring that about, rather than using force of law or arms. After all, in the eyes of either the multiple aspects of life or in God's eyes, why in "industrial civilization" to utterly important as to risk total destruction or at least extreme misery for many? Sadly, while most of the text seems rational and factual, occasional bits might betray some disparagement of environmentalists and therefore slight anti-environmental bias. (E.g. "under the cloak of" and "puritan", below.) If S+S harbour such bias, they are in danger of missing some valid and valuable insights in the environmentalist movement, and thus of emerging with a partial proposal. However, what they say is of immense value. Bear in mind that they view it all through the lens of the economic aspect.
    "We agree that, for the affluent world, growth is no longer a sensible goal of long-term policy. But we regard this as an ethical truth, not as a conclusionfrom scientific fact. ... An ethical ideal has been smuggled in under the cloak of a pragmatic necessity." [p.127] Agreed. (We would call is "normative" because to us, "ethical" is about self-giving love, not about right and wrong, and each aspect offers a different norm.) What we deem necessary is governed by which aspectual norm we deem important, and not by mere 'facts'.
    "Our doubts [about climate responsibility] concern the economic implications, not the science of global warming." [p.128] Good that they admit that. They argue solely in terms of the economic aspect. In doing so, S+S elevate the economic aspect above all other implications - biotic, psychological, social, juridical, ethical, and even pistic (meaning in life etc.). Each aspect reveals different kinds of implications, all of which are important.
    Though S+S insert a the possibility that the scientific consensus about climate change is false, they "accept the majority view, which is that global warming is indeed mainly the result of human actovity. Nothing in what follows hinges on its not being true." [p.128]
    "The argument from global warming to growth reduction typically takes a utilitarian form." [p.128] OK. But our argument for growth reduction is from the perspective of (a) responsibility (b) the kernel norm of the economic aspect (frugality), (c) that Useless economic activity is not a good thing. Again, we find S+S ignoring the responsibility approach.
    "Technology is central ..." [p.128-9] Yes, indeed, technology will change, and we must take this into account. With technology, we will be able to address some environmental problems. However, how many and what kinds of problems will technology solve?
    And will all the world have access to these technologies? Or only the affluent nations? History suggests that the affluent nations will be "unconcerned" about the others - (x unless God sends widespread Holy Spirit revival to completely change the mindset and attitude in society x).
    "Climate radicals are strongly opposed to discounting future welfare. ... Jellybyism ... We need only say that the welfare of the unborn counts less than that of the living, though it still counts for something." [p.130-1] That is an argument meaningful mainly in the economic aspect. What about other aspects? In many of those other aspects, the value of future people is the same as, not less than, the value we place on ourselves.
    (AB: Frankly, I am appalled at the self-centredness of S+S.)
    But of course, as we have already remarked, S+S seems to ignore the juridical aspect or at least give it little importance.
    [AB: S+S also quote Nigel Lawson's Appeal to Reason. For how this is by no means an appeal to reason, but "weak argument, partiality, narrowed views, misunderstandings and emotional wording." See Nigel Lawson 'An Appeal to Reason' - A Critical Review. Should not S+S, as responsible economists, know better?]
    "Most climate radicals are also passionate haters of greed and luxury ... puritan accent ..." [p.131] Though that might be an unnecessary and unfair slur on many environmentalists, there is some truth in it. Though we see greed as sin (x Paul calls it "a form of idolatry" x) and luxury a vice, there are ways of taking this line that do not involve what he calls "puritan". If we are to advocate reduction in Harmful and Useless economic activity, we need to be careful how we do so; this is discussed in Chapter 7, section 5. (The word "puritan" is used derogatorily, yet in fact the Puritans were good human beings who were genuinely concerned for justice for the poor and for animals. It seems that derogatory use of words is much more frequent in this chapter than in others, suggesting some commitment against Green perspectives, or at least bias.)
    "To sum up, the environmentalist case for growth reduction cannot be explained as a pragmatic response to known facts. It betrays a passion, a will to believe, to which the facts are incidental." [p.131] Yes there is passion, but we believe that that the environmentalist case for growth reduction can be explained by facts. Especially the facts that have emerged since 2012, when they wrote the book. S+S have not adequately argued that sufficient environmental responsibility can be obtained with economic growth. The best they offer is that growth will bring technology that will solve all the problems. But no such technology is yet even on the horizon.
    The Ethical Roots of Environmentalism
    S+S go through some history of environmentalist beliefs: the Romantics, anti-technology movements, Klages ("an anti-semit"), Heidegger ("an unrepentant Nazi"), Adonro, Horkheimer, Marcuse, Rachel Carson Silent Spring, EF Schumacher Small is Beautiful, a move away from anti-technology to sustainabioity, Lovelock's Gaia, tensions in the Green Movement between deep and shallow ecologists. [p.132-6] All these have contributed to the stream of environmental thought and outlook. However, S+S miss out several, for example the communitarian Greens, Green economists, 'spiritual' Greens, and others.

    Basden [1999] understands the various factions in the Green movement though the lens of Dooyeweerd's aspects: each faction may be seen as emphasising a different aspect of sustainability (not unlike our Multi-aspectual Overall Good.

    "This brief history confirms the conclusion arrived at earlier: sentiment, not science, has driven and continues to drive the environmentalists movement." [p.136] As we say above, of course "sentiment" is part of the driver of environmentalist thought, as it is for any thought if we see "sentiment" as commitment to something meaningful (pistic functioning). But that does not preclude science as also driving the thought. Science is a functioning in the analytical aspect, "sentiment", in the pistic aspect, and all thinkers function in both simultaneously - and in other aspects. And Dooyeweerd's "transcendental critique" of theoretical thought argues both immanently and transcendentally that it always has been so and always will be so.
    So we refuse to pit them against each other as S+S do.
    Harmony with Nature
    "Shallow" ecological ethics "sees nature as a human resource, to be managed with an eye to the interests of future generations." "Deep" ecological ethics "views it as valuable in and of itself, independently of its utility to us. ..." [p.136] One views nature via the lens of the economic aspect, the other via, usually, the biotic and maybe psychical aspects, in which plants and animals function as subjects. The "shallow" wing include the Stern Review, Ecosystem Services, etc. and often operates cost-benefit analysis, though over a longer term.
    "... Neither captures the true character of our concern for nature. It is by dissecting the shortcomings of both that we can arrive at a more adequate formulation." [p.136] So S+S are seeking something more. Will the end up with a more multi-aspectual view, which incorporates those three aspects but also all the others?
    "What can the 'flourishing of non-human life' possibly mean?" [p.137] Interesting the empahsis on meaning. Though they probably refer to the signification-meaning of that phrase, it cannot be answered merely by reference to what humans might intend, but only by an intrinsic meaningfulness. This is addressed fully by Dooyeweerd. Meaningfulness transcends humanity; indeed we "swim in an ocean of meaningfulness" [Basden 2019]. And can be answered by Dooyeweerd, by reference to his aspects, which are "modalities of meaning". For example, the biotic aspect tells us that all species and organisms are meaningful, regardless of humanity. (x Christians, Jews, etc. would say also that they are meaningful to God, but some readers might wish to stop at the suite of aspects by which we understand multi-aspectual transcending meaningfulness. x)
    "'biological egalitarians' such as Naess" [p.138] Such people take the biotic seriously. However they smuggle in a juridical notion.
    "We must be as disinterested in our dealings with nature as a Cato or a Brutus." [p.138] Presumably S+S are calling us to avoid bias either in favour of or against nature. Agreed, but how does one escape bias? Dooyeweerd shows how we always tend to favour some aspects over others, at least in reality whatever we claim. The best way to "disinterestedness" is through multi-aspectual awareness, giving due to each.
    "Deep ecologists are quite right to insist that nature's value is intrinsic, not instrumental; their mistake is to conclude from this is to conclude that it is independent of our point of view." [p.139] Good! Dooyeweerd was strong on insisting that since all aspects, including the biotic, are meaningful regardless of humans, we must consider humans and the rest of Creation together, not as two separate realms. He recognised that humans function as subject in some aspects that nature (animals, plants, non-living matter) does not, from the analytical to the pistic [Note: animals]. However, that does not imply that it does not function at all in these aspects; it can still be function in these aspects, but only with human functioning, not independent of it, and humans cannot function independently of nature, even in the later aspects. The reason is found in inter-aspect depednency, in both antecipatory and foundational directions. S+S seem to be reaching for Dooyeweerd's ideas in these passages. Dooyeweerd offers a sound philosophical foundation for their core ideas.
    "All value, instrumental and intrinsic, is relative to the human point of view, for the simple reason that we are the one and only valuing animal. Other animals have goods, but they do not grasp those goods as goods, as things worthy of pursuit." [p.139] As above. Dooyeweerd would explain it: To value is to function as subject in the economic aspect, which only humans do. Animals grasp things as food (biotic object) or as helping with their psychical lives (psychical objects) [such as a rock as a lookout: Gibson's affordances]. But to grasp things as goods is to treat them as resource with value. S+S seem to be reaching for Dooyeweerd's ideas in these passages. Dooyeweerd offers a sound philosophical foundation for their core ideas.
    "harmony with nature is part of the good life for man" [p.140]
    Call it "good-life environmentalism" [p.141]
    1. Agreed. This is an expression of multi-aspectual functioning.
    2. Harmony is meaningful in the aesthetic aspect, targeting all the others.
    However, as we shall in the next chapter, they omit some aspects.
    Our Conclusion
    "life in harmony with nature is not a sacrifice but something ardently to be desired." [p.144] Indeed so! And they will develop this in the next chapter. However, why do most humans in affluent cultures (the economic growth of which is doing most damage) not desire it? Our answer is mindset and attitude (society's pistic and ethical (dys)functioning), or what some religions call the human heart.
    - - We see very little, if anything, about the importance of responsibility in that chapter, and indeed throughout most of their book. Partly, maybe, because of viewing most via the lens of the economic aspect, which knows nothing about repspy.
    "The basic goods, as we define them, are not just means to, or capabilities for, a good life; they are the good life. ..." [p.148] Good. Their basic goods are normative as well as factual. They enable the functioning that is the good life. This aligns them very closely with Dooyeweerd's aspects, which are law-spheres that both enable functioning and also provide norms to define what is Good. Aspectual law also offers possibility (or "capability" in things like humans that can function in them as subject).
    "... Moreover, we regard such goods as an appropriate goal not just of private but of political action too." [p.148] Good. We too combine the individual with the structural or societal. See 6-2.5 Retrocipatory Impact and the Structures of Society .
    The Basic Goods
    Basic goods are: universal, final (the end of the chain of asking "Why?"), sui generis (not part of some other good), indispensable. [p.150-3] Good definition. Very, very like Dooyeweerd's aspects, which are:

    • universal, in that the aspects trnascend all Creation, enabling it to function and giving is meaningfulness;
    • final, in that they are foundational meaning-kernels;
    • not part of some other good, in that no aspect can be reduced to any (combinatino of) othe aspects;
    • indispensable, in that all aspects are equally important and all Creation functions in all aspects simultaneously, and that each aspect depends on all others for its full meaningfulness.

    S+S explicitly exclude religion and art, on the grounds that they are not indispensable: "we would not call an individual who lacked either of those two things seriously harmed." [p.153] Religion is pistic-social functioning, and is important for society and culture as a whole; S+S seem blind to that, taking a merely individualistic stance.
    Their "basic goods" are [p.154-]:

    • Health (biotic, psychical aspects);
    • Security (mainly juridical: "an individual's justified expectation that ..." [p.158]);
    • Respect (pistic, ethical, but in limited ways: "worthy of consideration");
    • Personality (formative aspect: "the ability to frame and execute a plan of life ..." [p.160]; private proeprty comes under this);
    • Harmony with nature (biotic, with aesthetic-as-harmonizing);
    • Friendship (social aspect);
    • Leisure (aesthetic aspect).

    A good list, better than many. And they offer good reasoning for why each is important. E.g. they reject philosophies that treat health as 'lower' "on the grounds that it belongs to our animal as opposed to our distinctively human nature" [p.154] However:
    1. They omit several aspects, as mentioned above, and also much of the meaningfulness of some. For example, the pistic aspect is more than merely being worthy of consideration, and the juridical aspect has meaningfulness far beyond security: such as responsibility.

    2. S+S take an individualistic stance, thinking only about what is needed by each individual, and ignore society and culture.

    Realizing The Basic Goods
    The topic of realizing the basic goods must by its nature be vague ("How much respect counts as having 'realized' respect?) Good. As we discuss in Chapter 5, the values in many aspects cannot be measured and many are not even approximately quantifiable.
    There is plurality of basic goods: is there a "'master-good' under which all others can be subsumed as aspects or means" or some "universal algorithm" by which to settle 'disputes' among them? [p.167-8] S+S argue there is no such master-good. Similar to Dooyeweerd's aspects. Each aspect defines an irreducibly distinct kind of rationality (way of making sense), but there is no overriding rationality. We are called to the human responsibility of wisdom in 'settling disputes'.
    "Plurality then is irreducible." No abundance of one basic good can make up for dearth of another. Dooyeweerd would agree, for reasons given above.
    "Where does all this leave growth?" [p.169] Growth is not an end in itself. (Three reasons given for growth, as means to end, as index, as short-term response to emergency, are all shown to be false in affluent cultures [p.170].) "The continued pursuit of growth is not only unnecessary to realizing the basic goods; it may actually damage them." [p.170] Here S+S link to our concern to differentiate Harmful ("damage") and Useless ("unnecessary") economic activity from Good. Most economic growth has come because of growth in Harmful and Useless economic activity. Most of their message is about Useless, but here they mention Harmful.
    "The basic goods are essentially non-marketable: they cannot properly be bought or sold." [p.170] This is so if their "basic goods" align with the kernel norms of aspects, and our functioning therein, as suggested above. What is bought or sold is resources to enable that functioning.
    S+S then discuss each of their basic goods may be realized. "

    This page, "", is part of the Christian Thinking in Economics project, which itself is within Christian Thinking Space.

    Created: 15 February 2024. Last updated: