In Defense of Growth and Capitalism

Progression, not regression: a complete refutation of Degrowth.

The Wright Flyer, which made the first airplane flight in 1903.


The core ideology behind Degrowth is that we should stop in our tracks, turn back the clock, and revert to a time where living conditions were depressingly poor, to somehow ‘fix’ climate change. It’s a perspective that looks down on progress, even deems it unwelcome.

This vision of society celebrates poverty as a badge of honor, and views restrictions on freedom as a positive, essential even. Within this worldview, children, who are nothing short of miracles breathing life into our world, are viewed as liabilities, exacerbating what they perceive as an overpopulation crisis.

Degrowth calls for a centralized power to dictate where progress can and cannot take place, effectively deciding who receives resources and who does not. It’s a system that inherently demands compliance, strongly resembling communism.

Some Degrowth advocates pretend that it’s possible to degrow the economy without centralized power and authoritarian tactics, because “everyone would willingly participate”. We will go over this argument later in this piece, but for now, the fact that I’m writing this already proves the contrary.

Degrowth and authoritarianism, dictatorships, even world government, are all part of the same melody. Because if even one subset of the world’s population doesn’t participate and continues growing, that could cause sufficient pollution to keep climate change going on.

Advocates of Degrowth dress up their rhetoric with appealing terms like ‘harmony’, ‘well-being’, and ‘sustainability’. But don’t be duped. Their intentions may be well-meaning, but the aftermath of degrowth would be catastrophic.

When the pie isn’t getting larger, my share getting larger means yours is getting smaller, opening the door towards conflict. Corruption, violence, and oppression prevail in zero-sum negative-sum societies – a stark contrast with “harmony”, “well-being”, and “sustainability”.

No overconsumption or overproduction

A common critique of Capitalism is that it leads to overconsumption and overproduction. But that is evidently wrong.

Of course, there are instances where true overconsumption transpires. Like when you’re at a restaurant and you order more than you can eat, resulting in wasted food. But this form of wastage isn’t applauded by Capitalism, it’s penalized.

You’ve squandered resources – you’ve lost money. If you’d been more attuned to your actual appetite, you’d have ordered wisely, saved money, and still been perfectly sated. Hence, Capitalism subtly nudges you towards precise consumption - not more, not less.

The narrative is similar for corporations. If a business overproduces, the surplus stock piles up, unsold. This is a clear cut loss, a monetary penalty, prompting them to match production to the demand. Capitalism, in essence, incentivizes companies to manufacture what the market necessitates, no more, no less.

Those subscribing to the Degrowth doctrine often misinterpret the utility of products, suggesting that several commodities lack intrinsic value and, hence, shouldn’t be produced. But the notion of utility is subjective.

The market responds to consumer demand. If someone is willing to pay money for a product, it is, by definition, useful to them. If the product isn’t beneficial to anyone, it won’t find a buyer, inflicting financial losses on the company, potentially pushing it to the brink of bankruptcy.

In case of underproduction, meaning when a company is unable to meet the demands of the market in terms of product supply, the market directly incentivizes a competitor to emerge and offer a competing product, through the market’s unmet demand.

Because of these reasons, it’s fair to conclude that Capitalism denotes ‘right-sized’ consumption and production. Whenever there’s a misstep, a tilt towards the excess or the insufficient, the unforgiving but fair hand of the market steps in to administer a course correction.

Picture by Lewis Hine taken in 1931, of a worker during the construction of the Empire State Building.

No one would willingly participate in Degrowth

A common theme among alternatives to Capitalism is their lack of pragmatism. The critique that is often used against the argument that Degrowth requires centralized power, is that the population will somehow willingly take part in it.

As if nations like China, India, and Nigeria would willingly limit their growth, and settle for poor living conditions, all because of climate change? They wouldn’t, and frankly, if we were in their shoes, we would feel exactly the same. Our ancestors lived incredibly poorly compared to how we live now, after all.

But even if they aren’t in the shoes of third-world countries, the vast majority of people continue living as they have always done. Prior to the pandemic, despite all the climate protests, the number of passengers flying globally and travelling on cruises only increased year after year.

While some may vocally support Degrowth, it’s only rarely reflected in their actions. Degrowth for thee, not for me.

This also applies to governments, who have been attending COP conferences to discuss climate change solutions and virtue signal about their “initiatives” since 1995, while carbon emissions have only been increasing since then.

Interestingly, in the past ten years, they have remained stable or very slightly decreased for the USA, a capitalistic country, whereas they have increased for China, a socialist country. And the USA didn’t just outsource its carbon emissions to China, like it’s commonly believed. This proves exactly my point: countries like China are not game theoretically incentivized to care about climate change. They are incentivized to grow as much as possible. We wouldn’t behave any different if we were in their shoes, and you can protest as much as you like, China won’t stop growing.

Happiness is not a valid argument

Degrowth advocates often point out that economic growth does not necessarily translate into happiness.

This might seem like a valid argument at first sight, but it’s not. Economic decline doesn’t “necessarily” translate into happiness either.

The truth is that there is no way to reliably know what does or does not increase happiness, given there is no way to reliably measure happiness in the first place.

Self-reporting, which is often used by studies supposedly “measuring” happiness, is very much prone to cultural standards.

Finland, often cited by studies supposedly measuring happiness as one of the happiest countries in the world, has anecdotally also a relatively high suicide rate. One would expect happy people to not kill themselves, and yet…

Different cultures have different definitions of happiness, and within these cultures, definitions of happiness vary too. What happiness may mean for Degrowth proponents may not be what it means for me.

A hedonist may define happiness as finding pleasure in the little things, while a buddhist may define it as being at peace. Because the definitions for happiness vary so much, it’s incredibly hard, if not impossible, to create a system that optimizes for happiness.

The conclusion is simple: happiness is not a valid argument in this debate.

However, what is a valid argument, is that there is there is absolutely no virtue in poverty and that it inevitably leads to unhappiness.

Picture taken during the construction of the Hoover Dam in the 1930s.

The overpopulation myth

A popular meme in today’s society is that we are too many on the planet. This is apparently so-called “common sense”. The argument often used to defend this misconception is that there are supposedly not enough resources for everyone.

But that misses the point. The issue isn’t a deficit of physical resources; it’s a shortage of knowledge.

Consider Uranium, for instance. Before we understood its potential, it was just another raw material buried deep in the earth. The physical resource existed, but our ignorance rendered it useless.

Then, science moved forward, technology evolved, and suddenly we found ourselves with a powerful source of energy. Just like that, Uranium was no longer an inert element but a real game-changer for the world.

We’re not limited by what we have; we’re only limited by what we know. There’s a myriad of undiscovered methods to utilize existing resources to generate more energy, food, and other necessities. Similarly, there’s an abundance of untapped potential to enhance our present resource utilization strategies.

This is where the population doom-mongers falter, assuming that our usage and efficiency of resources are static. But given the same physical resources we possess today, we can generate more food, water, energy, and so on tomorrow.

In fact, a larger population would result in more demand for food, water, energy, and other basic needs, resulting in an increased incentive to invent new ways to solve these problems (or improve current ones). The market adapts itself to supply and demand in real time, one of the beautiful aspects of our capitalistic system.

More people on the planet means more humans who get the chance of experiencing the beauty of life, more creative minds, more inventions, more technological breakthroughs, etc. This a net positive for the world! It’s wonderful.

Capitalism isn’t burning the planet

Capitalism is burning the planet, they say. It’s not. Capitalism cannot burn the planet, it’s an economic system. Nor is the planet burning. The climate is changing.

What is really happening is that present day technology, used to improve the quality of life for humans, has, too often, an impact that causes our climate to change. It has nothing to do with Capitalism itself. This could very well happen in a communistic society too. It has, in fact.

The solution to that problem is obviously to improve our technology, not to change our economic system, which again, doesn’t cause climate change. It’s about improving our existing technology, both in terms of user experience and in terms of impact on the climate.

Tesla is a great example of that. It’s objectively a better product, while also being cleaner environmentally (assuming the electricity it runs on doesn’t come from coal power plants, for example).

The better user experience is the necessary incentive to attract consumers, who now get the chance of driving a car that is much cleaner environmentally.

Climate change isn’t an unsolvable riddle. It’s a technological challenge, and we’re fully capable of tackling it. We need more companies that will help us solve this problem.

Early prototype of the Vought-Sikorsky VS-300 in 1939, the first viable American helicopter, which pioneered the rotor configuration used by most helicopters today.

Wealth inequality isn’t a problem

Another point that Degrowth proponents like to bring into light is the rising wealth inequality, which they attribute to our growth-oriented economy.

However, wealth inequality is not a problem. Wealth equality is a synonym for equality of outcome, which on top of having communistic undertone to it, is simply evil. If someone works both harder and smarter than I do, creating more wealth for society, it’s only fair that they should earn more.

The real problem is not wealth inequality, it’s inequality of opportunity. And that problem is independent of whether or not a society is growing or declining. Or is it?

There is in fact an argument to be made that growth and technological innovation are the solution for the opportunity inequality problem.

The printing press revolutionized how knowledge was disseminated, transforming it from a privilege to a right. The advent of the internet took that democratization a step further, making information ubiquitously accessible and enabling global communication. It birthed the era of remote work.

The rise of crypto will equalize the playing field in the financial world, massively reducing financial inequality of opportunity. Someone in Africa can use the same crypto lending protocol to have access to cash like a hedge fund manager can in Switzerland.

As for AR/VR, it is dissolving the constraints of physical location. As these developments continue, we get closer and closer to a world where an individual in India will have an equal shot at the same job opportunities as their counterpart in the US. Bit by bit, technology is breaking down barriers and creating a more equitable landscape.

And the issue of wealth inequality, even if we were to accept it as a legitimate problem, has been progressively diminishing over the past several centuries.

Just compare the average peasant’s life during Louis XIV’s reign, which was made out of hardship and poverty, to the opulence of the royal court at Versailles.

Peasants (the majority of the population) mostly ate bread, about 40% owned little to not land, and they typically lived in one or two room houses in rural areas and their lifestyle was mostly agrarian. They sometimes shared their living space with their animals, and faced starvation in case of a poor harvest.

In contrast, Louis XIV ordered the construction of the Palais de Versailles, with hundreds of luxurious rooms, magnificent gardens with fountains, and countless paintings and statues. He had jewelry, clothing made out of delicate fabrics like silk and velvet, without forgetting the wigs of course. He had access to the finest meats, fruits, vegetables, wines, etc. And he could travel anywhere he wanted across France with the most comfortable carriages and the best horses.

The average peasant, meaning the vast majority of the population, had none of that. And that’s without mentioning the nearly 48% risk of infant mortality at that time. If you had ten children, about five would die before reaching age 15.

Today, Jeff Bezos may be stratospherically wealthier than you in terms of nominal wealth, the digits showing up in your bank account. But when it comes to material wealth, the disparity isn’t so wide.

You probably have a smartphone, just like Bezos has. You probably have a car, just like Bezos has. You probably have heating in your home, just like Bezos' has. You probably don’t have a yacht yet, like he has, or a private jet, but these will come in due time as the costs of these technologies go down. He will likely also get a better healthcare experience if he catches a disease, but the core treatment will probably be very similar to what you would get if you caught that disease.

Some will point towards developing countries where there is still extreme poverty. But the problem in that case is extreme poverty, a form of inequality of opportunity, not wealth inequality. You could have more wealth inequality, with no extreme poverty.

Degrowth is very dangerous geopolitically

Something which is rarely (never) covered by Degrowth advocates is the geopolitical risks that it brings to the table.

This is where the naivety of some of the Degrowth advocates really comes into light, as they propose the idea of slowing down the economies of first-world countries to allow third-world countries to continue growing.

But if a foreign power doesn’t limit its growth, while our country does, that foreign power’s military will grow stronger compared to ours, posing a risk to national security.

While it’s been a while, thankfully, since the West has been at actual war (leaving the proxy wars and cold wars aside for a minute), this isn’t a fairy tale world.

Forget ‘harmony’, ‘well-being’, and ‘sustainability’. The iron rule of history is the rule of violence. The only logic tyrants understand is the logic of violence, and without a strong defense, the West would get immediately invaded.

Additionally, being a pacifist doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t defend yourself against the enemy, on the contrary. It’s not about being “peaceful”, it’s about protecting peace. If that requires violence because others threaten peace, then so be it.

Having a strong defense also unironically acts as a war deterrent, as the enemy will be less likely to attack you. We should invest more in defense, not less.

Image taken around 1950 of ENIAC, the first programmable, electronic, general-purpose digital computer.


Climate change is real, and it’s a problem we can’t ignore. But every problem that falls within the realm of physics has a solution. Degrowth isn’t that solution, though. It’s an attempt to sidestep the issue, to throw in the towel. It’s not a solution, it’s an admission of defeat.

If Degrowth isn’t the solution to climate change, then what is? Growth.

Limiting our growth, or even regressing, will only slow down technological progress which will ultimately prevent us from finding solutions to address climate change. Growth is the only way out.

Instead of holding placards on the streets, start a company that pioneers new aeropropulsion systems that significantly cut carbon emissions. Or perhaps, devise an effective strategy to prevent forest fires. Or invent new technologies that safeguard people from the dangers caused by natural disasters.

The real solution is in the realm of building, inventing, and innovating. It’s about embracing our human capacity for creativity and exceptionalism. It’s about facing the challenge of climate change head-on and conquering it, not with regression, but with progression.

For, in the grand scheme of things, we are merely at the beginning of our journey towards infinity, and will always be. There are countless new problems waiting for us, regressing now is not an option.