2016 St. Gallen Abstracts

Good-Based Economy: Growing the Rice and Weeding out the Grass

Armand Aquino

The essay argues that modern economic thinking is flawed since it considers “bads” as goods and when it grows, no matter where the growth comes from, it is good. It then proposes that an alternative to economic growth is the growth of the “good-based” economy that delivers positive impact. The essay uses the simple economy of a rice field. In it, we both allow rice (the goods) and grass (the bads) to grow and we see it as green and beautiful but we do not realize how the grass robs the rice of the nourishment it needs to flourish and be food for the people. In practical terms, good-based economic growth means more spending on poverty reduction than fighting militarized wars or bailing the poor more rather than the large banks. To transition to a good-based economy, we need collective value-setting, change our attitudes, and enact tough policy changes.


Deconstructing growth: The whywhat, and how any alternative to growth must consist of

Schima Labitsch

This paper argues that although alternatives to economic growth exist and are moderately well known, their full acceptance and feasibility rests on the development of a new growth discourse. Based on Michel Foucault’s concept of discourse analysis and Ludwig Wittgenstein’s theorizing on the limits of language, it proposes a new foundation for discussing growth by focusing on its constructivist nature. It argues that the way we understand, talk and portray growth in media, politics and business influences the realm of growth politics and potential alternatives. Hence, it is imperative to approach growth a) qualitatively and in context (the why), b) re-position it as a political agenda that allows for public scrutiny (the what) and c) develop a new “language” of growth that captures its diverse reality and underlying concepts (the how). In doing so, it constructs growth as a deliberate socio-economic choice instead of an idealized abstraction and thereby creates an environment in which alternative economic policies can emerge.


Perennation Rates: The appropriate way to measure the success of the modern collective human endeavor.

Lodewikus Lombaard

Charles Darwin’s theories are often beautifully summarized by the notion that the survival of a species is not a function of intelligence or strength, but the ability to adapt to change. It is an undeniable fact that a new world has dawned where factors such as climate chaos, income distribution mortalities and a paucity of energy is the new normal. Humanity will need to replace our old measure of collective success – namely “growth”- with a new yardstick that captures the struggles that we face and the triumphs that we achieve in the face of modern day adversities. In this essay it is argued that perennation rates should be this new measure for how well we as a species fare in this new world where we are morally obligated to wage war against injustices, rethink resource constraints and come to grips with the reality that the only constant is complex incomprehensible chaos.

Perennation rate maximization as the new central goal can be loosely defined as maximization of the survival rate of humans in a given period. In other words, how many lives are spared by our actions, decisions and policies that would have otherwise been lost to the conditions that prevail in a new world where a new set of good, bad and ugly circumstances will define how we survive and prosper. The concept of perennation rates captures when things go horribly wrong; is eloquently simple; in line with human incentives and habits, and unambiguously quantifiable.

This essay starts by taking stock of how the concept of “growth” has served us, and why it is no longer the appropriate measure of humanity’s collective successes. Thereafter an explanation is given as to how perennation rates are better suited for current conditions than growth. This is followed by arguments that support the feasibility of switching to perennation rates and a discussion of how best to implement this measure. Possible critique against the use of the measure is discussed and a summary and concussion is given to round out the discourse.