Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef: US Is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” – Part 2 of 2

Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef: US Is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” – Part 2 of 2


Because economists don’t know how to calculate really costs, you know? To bring butter from 20,000 kilometers to a place where you make the best butter, under the argument that it was cheaper, is a colossal stupidity, because they don’t take into consideration what is the impact of 20,000 kilometers of transfer? What is the impact on the environment of that transportation, you know, and all those things? And in addition, I mean, it’s cheaper because it’s subsidized. So it’s clearly a case in which the prices never tell the truth. It’s all tricks, you know? And those tricks do colossal harms. And if you bring consumption closer to production, you will eat better, you will have better food, you know, and everything. You will know where it comes from. You may even know the person who produces it. You humanize this thing, you know? But the way the economists practice today is totally dehumanized. You don’t think the earth ill force this different way of thinking, that we’re reaching the end? Oh, well, yes. Yes. I believe, you know, that well, there are some important scientists that already are saying, I believe. I have not reached that point yet. But some believe, you know, and state that it’s definite: we are finished. In a few more decades, I mean, there will be no humanity anymore. I don’t think we have reached that point of it, but I believe that we are pretty close to it. I’ll say that we already crossed one of the three rivers. And if you look at it and what is happening everywhere, I mean, it’s quite frightening how the amount of catastrophes are increasing all over the place, you know, in all manifestations – storms, earthquakes, you know, volcanoes erupting. I mean, the amount of events is growing dramatically. I mean, it’s really frightening. And we continue with the same. What have you learned that gives you hope in the poor communities that you’ve worked in and lived in? Solidarity of people. You know, respect for the others. Mutual aid. No greed. I mean, that is a value that is absent in poverty. And you would be inclined to think that there should be more there than elsewhere, you know, that greed should be of people who have nothing. No, quite the contrary. The more you have, the more greedy you become, you know. And all this crisis is the product of greed. Greed is the dominant value today in the world. And as long as that persists, well, we are done. And if you’re teaching young economists, the principles you would teach them, what they’d be? The principles, you know, of an economics which should be are based in five postulates and one fundamental value principle. One, the economy is to serve the people and not the people to serve the economy. Two, development is about people and not about objects. Three, growth is not the same as development, and development does not necessarily require growth. Four, no economy is possible in the absence of ecosystem services. Five, the economy is a subsystem of a larger finite system, the biosphere, hence permanent growth is impossible. And the fundamental value to sustain a new economy should be that no economic interest, under no circumstance, can be above the reverence of life. Explain that further. Nothing can be more important than life. And I say life, not human beings, because, for me, the center is the miracle of life in all its manifestations. But if there is an economic interest, I mean, you forget about life, not only of other living beings, but even of human beings. If you go through that list, one after the other, what we have today is exactly the opposite. Go back to three: growth and development. Explain that further. Growth is a quantitative accumulation. Development is the liberation of creative possibilities. Every living system in nature grows up to a certain point and stops growing. You are not growing anymore, nor he nor me. Otherwise we wouldn’t be dialogging here now. So development has no limits. Growth has limits. And that is a very big thing, you know, that economists and politicians don’t understand. They are obsessed with the fetish of economic growth. And I am working, several decades. Many studies have been done. I’m the author of a famous hypothesis, the threshold hypothesis, which says that in every society there is a period in which economic growth, conventionally understood or no, brings about an improvement of the quality of life. But only up to a point, the threshold point, beyond which, if there is more growth, quality of life begins to decline. And that is the situation in which we are now. I mean, your country is the most dramatic example that you can find. I have gone as far as saying – and this is a chapter of a book of mine that is published next month in England, the title of which is Economics Unmasked. There is a chapter called “The United States, an Underdeveloping Nation,” which is a new category. We have developed, underdeveloped and developing. Now you have underdeveloping. And your country is an example, in which the one percent of the Americans, you know, are doing better and better and better, and the 99 percent is going down, in all sorts of manifestations. People living in their cars now and sleeping in their cars, you know, parked in front of the house that used to be their house – thousands of people. Millions of people, you know, have lost everything. But the speculators that brought about the whole mess, oh, they are fantastically well off. No problem. No problem. So how would you turn that around? Well, I don’t know how to turn it around. it will turn around itself, you know, in catastrophic manners. I mean, I don’t understand how there isn’t millions of people can all of a sudden go out in the streets in the United States and begin destroying things, I don’t know. That may perfectly happen. You know, the situation is absolutely dramatic. Absolutely dramatic. And it is supposed to be the most powerful country in the world, you know, and so on. And even in those conditions, they continue with those stupid wars, you know, and spend more, more, more millions and trillions. Thirteen trillion dollars for the speculators; not one cent for the people who lost their homes! I mean, what kind of logic is that? Acclaimed Chilean economist Manfred Max-Neef, a Right Livelihood laureate. I spoke to him in Bonn, Germany, last week. Among his books, Outside Looking In: Experiences in Barefoot Economics.

7 thoughts on “Chilean Economist Manfred Max-Neef: US Is Becoming an “Underdeveloping Nation” – Part 2 of 2

  1. The world doesn't listen to thoughtful people. It's easier to look the other way and keep watching TV and not think hard about the deep problems of humanity. Thank you Manfred, I really still hope people would listen to you and people like you more.

  2. The mainstream media and universities are sell outs. If they cared about their own children, they would start warning the people NOW.

  3. I put my faith on nature. I put my faith on the fact that every human system must fall at certain period or age. We are stupid, as Mr. Manfred says, and we are condemned.

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