It seems everywhere you look these days economies are gearing down to much slower speeds. Indeed, some economies are already at a standstill (or even moving in reverse) and it’s likely more will soon follow.

Whether it’s North America and Europe or even China and India, the story is much the same — the world’s largest economies are running out of gas. Despite the best efforts of central banks and finance ministries, even unprecedented fiscal and monetary stimulus aren’t enough to keep the global economic recovery from stalling.

In China, the days of heady double-digit growth rates look to be over. The latest GDP projections see growth sinking into the 8 percent range, a pace that itself may be unsustainable. Even China’s seemingly indefatigable manufacturing sector, which is responsible for more factory output than that of any other country, is beginning to look tired. The last time that happened, Beijing came to the rescue with a 4 trillion yuan stimulus package. But that was during the global recession in 2008. This time around that kind of massive stimulus may help to fill order books, but it would also surely start a bonfire under inflation at the same time.

The economic outlook is similar in India. Growth there has decelerated to 5 percent, the slowest pace in nearly a decade. And even that may not be sustainable given that inflation is now chugging along at more than 7 percent.

Even with slower growth, China and India remain bright spots for the global economy. Hardly a day seems to pass without more bad news coming out of the euro zone. In Spain, money is pouring out of the banking system, with more than $80 billion fleeing for safer havens in the last month alone. And with good reason. Investors need only look to Greece for evidence of what a punishing recession will do to a country’s banks. Greece is about to leave the European Monetary Union and Spain won’t be far behind. An exodus of the euro zone’s weaker members bodes poorly for the stronger economies of northern Europe. Without the drag of the struggling PIIGS (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain) to hold down its value, a soaring euro will batter German exports, one of the few remaining stalwarts of an otherwise moribund EU economy.

The outlook for North America is also sobering. The most recent US employment report shows the economy added a paltry 69,000 jobs, hardly the kind of job creation needed to keep a struggling economic recovery on the rails. In both the US and Canada, GDP growth has already dipped below 2 percent.

What makes such modest growth numbers even more troubling is the amount of stimulus that’s already been used to create today’s tenuous recovery. Central banks are keeping interest rates at or near zero, while huge fiscal deficits are already commonplace. In that context, it’s far from obvious what economic levers governments have left to pull to fight the next round of recessions that are threatening the global economy.

  • RigPigPetey

    uncharted waters for sure,………………but we still need to buy a loaf of bread and put gas in the tank and turn the furnace up when it gets cold. That sputtering along thing,…..

  • Ellen Rainwalker

    Just curious why Jeff had to steal Richard Heinberg’s title “The End of Growth” – couldn’t he come up with his own title?

  • Arif Jinha

    Economists need to attend to key problems, food security, drinking water, shelter and human security/peace. For too long, we’ve hyper focused on growth with secondary concern for distribution of proceeds so that the global leader, poor majority can purchase necessities.  However, it is obvious that the effects are inequality, disruption of sufficiency, dependence on markets, homogenous globalization, environmental destruction, waste, corruption, war, dominance, coercion, institutional failure, growth homelessness and the list goes on and on.  Question remains as to who will take the opportunity in the crisis to propose economic solutions which are friendly, rather than predatory.  So far we have a box and we need to crush it, starting with the ideas, the priorities, the representation in economics by conventionalists.  No more jobs, jobs, jobs, let us incentivize a foundation in the basics, and t us have our work, our time, our autonomy, oh creativity, our freedom, our clean air, water, food, shelter, real culture, real goods not commercial garbage, let us have our dignity back as human beings. Growth, no growth, if we attain the basics we are liberated from force-feeding and stuffing ourselves with garbage consumerism.

  • vactruckdoug

    we dont NEED to do any of those 3 things. but we certainly have gotten used to it. flipping a switch to change the temperature in a building? Unheard of before fossil fuels, and humans lived for millions of years before exploiting oil and coal. We will have to get used to a new reality.

  • dwdeclare

    “We must realize that growth is but an adolescent phase of life which
    stops when physical maturity is reached. If growth continues in the
    period of maturity it is called obesity or cancer. Prescribing growth as
    the cure for the energy crisis has all the logic of prescribing
    increasing quantities of food as a remedy for obesity.” ~  Physicist, Albert Bartlett

  • johnd

    I just read ‘The End of Growth’……….but, if $100 oil is the problem, is $2 gas not, possibly, the solution?

  • Mark Evans

    Why isnt the new book available on Kindle in the UK? C’mon Jeff sort it out please.

  • Giorgio Ansan

    What you think of Maugeri prevision for world oil supply and price?

  • Reggie Jackson

    Just read your second book. Sobering. Really miss reading your CIBC “honest” opinions which is greatly missed from the big bank economists in North America.

  • Bob

    It almost reaches the point of nausea when the economist spouts forth the gospel of growth.
    The economist has invested his intellectual being in an arcane science that has as it’s core gospel the gospel of growth .When it came to economics man outwitted himself and with science and technology he could saturate the market with fewer and fewer workers. Debt became the panacea the saviour of the economic model but debt was a temporary growth strategy. New money is created but not the money to pay the interest , that comes from growth. Collapse  or growth that is the question can QE 3 be the answer of course not but it might give an opportunity to turn a fast buck in gold and the commodities as the fiat money system comes undone.

  • RigPigPetey

    Finished your second book, it was a good read. Too much redundancy Jeff. 
    And i can’t agree with you on a lot of assumptions. But i will give you an example of some reality that i look at everyday.

    We have one 40,000 square mile area with 1,700 vertical producing wells operated by 51 operators through 9 compressor stations making XXXXX amount of production. That complete area has been drilled and producing for just over 18 years specific to my point being made here.

    Now, we have a 8 well pad in one (1) location all drilled horizontally and fracced and been on line for almost two years now. That small footprint has produced more production than the afore mentioned area.

    What is your concept of “prudent?’

  • Instincts

    I’ve read through your ‘End of Growth’ volume twice. 
    Some comments:

    1) There is a lot of repetition both within the book, and between this book and
    your first ‘Why Your World…’ book, but perhaps that was intended to get the
    messages through;

    2) I think that most of what you convey in this book is likely accurate, except
    I see one very critical flaw in the concluding chapters.  You mention that
    high energy prices have and will continue to kill Growth, on which I highly
    agree.  But you conclude that such static growth will solve or remedy the
    issues pertaining to things such as global warming and other environmental
    catastrophes predicted by some.  While I agree that the unchecked
    increases in these likely won’t be realized due to static growth that is now
    upon us, what you neglect (and perhaps don’t realize yourself) is that even at
    current GDP or even a contracted GDP, we’ve probably already surpassed critical
    environmental resilience thresholds that has and will continue to result in
    serious repercussions that could still result in system-wide crashes in things
    such as biodiversity, critical levels of atmospheric carbon and other various contaminants, soil
    and water degradation, etc.  I’d bet that David Suzuki would agree with me
    on that point.  But maybe the Zero-Sum
    effect that you describe is enough to keep things from being pushed over the
    edge in the Gaia-like manner that you described – only time can tell.  Having
    said that, being pragmatic about this, given the current global situation, the
    effect of static growth on the future of many things must not and should not be
    underestimated, and you should be commended for communicating this to broader

    3) You are likely working very closely with David Suzuki and his crew/agents
    right now preparing for your next ’round’ to be launched this fall.  While
    some may view David Suzuki as having ‘popularized’ environmental activism in
    Canada and abroad for better or for worse (though I don’t know how anyone could
    think it for worse), one thing that is very apparent is that David Suzuki is
    very passionate, very knowledgeable, and absolutely the ‘real McCoy’ when it
    comes to his sincerity and his ‘will’ to affect real societal change for the
    betterment of both the environment and humanity.  According to what you’ve
    described, your own route was quite different, because when the writing was on
    the wall that you had no other choice but to leave CIBC World Markets to pursue
    your first book publication, there really was no turning back.  It seems
    apparent to me that you share the same level of sincerity as that of David
    Suzuki, albeit through an economist set of eyes.  While both he and you understandably must
    also approach your avocations in a business manner, you’ve both managed to
    captivate a significantly sized audience.  The interdisciplinary Economic-Environmental
    agenda and messages that you and David are undoubtedly forging and preparing to
    share in coming months, is perhaps the all-time most important messages to
    broader society.  I hope for two things:
    1) that you both hold true to your sincerities and commitments to this cause
    for the long haul (David already has proven that), 2) that enough people will
    put their indifferences aside to listen to your messages and accept the inevitable
    changes that are to come, and quit chasing this impossible infinite growth
    concept that has blinded so many.


    One last point is that I found it interesting that the
    economic/growth phenomenon that you describe in your book really is no
    different than any other natural phenomenon subject to the process of evolutionary
    Natural Selection.  What this means is
    that the economic/social process that has and will continue to unfold cannot be
    changed by any individual or group thereof, because the sum of the effect of
    all (7 billion) individuals involved in this thing that we call ‘economy’ has
    and will continue to take a course of its own, which of course is tied
    intricately to the bounds of the finite resources on this finite planet Earth.  Some of us have the luxury to make choices as
    to how we will be affected by (or steer through) this process, while many
    others aren’t so fortunate.  And for
    that, those of us who have such a choice should be thankful that we do, and
    sympathetic to those who don’t.


    Those who choose to deny most or all of these things simply
    don’t see the bigger picture, or they don’t want to.  Thanks for the courage you’ve endured to hold
    true to what you believe in.  If
    economists won’t believe or agree with an economist on such matters, then only
    reality hitting them in the face will convince them, whether it occurs acutely or
    chronically.  I look forward to meeting
    you when I attend one of your events this fall.

  • Mok-sha

    Can someone (perhaps in the know) tell me, why natural gas can’t replace much of the oil dependency? With the cost disparity, recent innovations, and big player moves towards it like Caterpillar for example, why can’t it step in to replace oil? As a primary, along with the various alt energies like solar, wind, etc. I would probably like to believe Jeff’s version of expensive oil forcing a transition from global growth models back to more local independent models, and the eco benefit of that. But I have a sneaking suspicion, oil will give way to other means and the global growth model will fight on….perhaps to a point where breakthroughs in science/tech etc will change the entire playing field in ways yet unknown.

  • Jd96

    I think industry is already replacing some of their oil consumption with gas; one of the big issues is that 70% of oil consumption is used for transportation. To convert cars to nat. gas costs $5000 and then the infrastructure is not yet in place to be able to fill the tank. It seems to me these problems will be solved as they need to be…..just like the issue with getting the gas out of the ground in the first place…’s always been there, but it stayed there until the economics made it worthwhile to develope better methods of directional drilling and fracing and now we have lots of gas….next step, develope better and more affordable ways to use it…which is being done right now. So I agree with you, I think at least for now, the global growth model will fight on

  • Philjacques

    I’m just began reading your new book “The End of Growth”.
    About 30 years ago, early in my business career, I attended a national sales meeting for an industrial products manufacturing company. The directors and key executives were setting goals and projections on the implicit assumption that growth was a given.
    When I naively questioned the mantra, the reaction was stunned silence. The gospel of growth was so well entrenched in the minds of these business people that my question was viewed as not only a silly uneducated comment, but almost heretical,as if i had questioned the law of gravity. Growth was viewed seen as one of those scientifically proven “universal laws” of the physical world.

    I do understand that growth is necessary to ensure that shareholder returns can only be sustained if share prices and/or dividends rise over time. An increase of $7 on a $100 share (over a 12 month period) will result in a share price of $107 and a 7% ROE, however in the following 12 months, the share price needs to increase by $7.50 to maintain the same ROE. As the effect of compounding accelerates the process, the growth goals become increasingly unrealistic and unsustainable. Shareholders however are not interested in this sober perspective, and they will severly punish the management team that does not deliver.

    But there are those who dared to challenge the conventional business wisdom. The following is an article by a young law student from Chicago. The article was published in Adbusters magazine more than 25 years ago. It is one of my favourite, and I believe even more relevant today.

    PS to Jeff: I’m not sure of the precise definition of your term “static growth”. In a finite world, ANY year over year growth will inevitably result in collapse. We may not even be able to sustain a ZERO GROWTH at the current levels of output. 

    Here’s that article…




    Politicians, economists and
    business leaders are failing us miserably

    By Mathew Joseph Medina


    problems that our world faces – resource depletion, pollution, deteriorating
    ozone and the like – all stem from a common source.  They will not be solved until we learn to
    address their root cause, which is our entire way of looking at the role of
    wealth in our world economy.  We must
    come to realize that growth is nothing more than a quantitative measurement.  Our addiction to quantity – more wealth,
    bigger houses, faster cars – obscures and sometimes destroys our more
    fundamentally important qualitative goals. 
    Happiness, beauty, quality of family life, spending time with children
    or the elderly – many perceive theses as impediments to their addiction.  Paul L. Wachtel, author of Poverty of
    affluence wrote: “ Harmony, not growth; cooperation; not individual
    pursuit of more and everything; a respect for nature, rather than a ruthless
    effort to conquer her; these may well be the path to salvation for modern man.”

    The enigma of defining progress.

    What is progress?  Ask
    an economist and he or she will tell you progress equals economic growth.  We must continue to grow.  They talk as if growth is a qualitative

    It is not.  Roger
    Terry, in his book Economic Insanity, wrote: “The only
    instances of unlimited growth found in nature are cancerous tumors, they grow
    by stealing sustenance from healthy tissue…and by opening new pathways for the
    malignancy throughout the body.  In
    essence, cancer tricks the body so that it actually contributes to its own
    destruction.”  Ultimately our desire to
    have never ending economic growth may prove fatal to the habitability of our
    earth.  And for what?  Lets us say that we double the rate in which
    we produce goods and services.  We must
    then, at the same time, double the rate in which we stress the earth’s
    waste-assimilation capacity.  This
    capacity is not unlimited. If we dump more and more waste into our environment,
    at ever-increasing rates, our earth’s assimilation capacity will soon be
    exceeded.  And for what?  So we can have more stuff.  If we double our rate of economic growth,
    will we be twice as happy?

    Growth does not equal development.

    Public policy ought to be focused on the pursuit of human
    well-being rather than the fulfillment of endless human desires.  Material comfort is no doubt necessary to the
    pursuit of human well-being, but it is by no means sufficient.  Material comfort is excess, to the exclusion
    of other important human needs like community, family, spiritual and moral
    development, can become an impediment to human progress.  We are often so wrapped up in the pursuit of
    happiness that we forget to be happy.  We
    often think that what we are doing is what is good for us.  Certainly we are doing what is expected.  Socrates taught us that we never desire
    anything that we do not, at the moment of desiring it, deem to be good.  Yet, even today many people would agree (if
    they took the time to think about it) that an endless pattern of consumption
    will not lead to the promised land of human well-being and happiness.

    When you were young, all you thought you needed was a new
    bike, then you would be happy and satisfied. 
    When you got older, your bike was not sufficient.  After all, many of your friends were driving
    cars now.  You didn’t need anything
    fancy, just an old junker to get you around the neighborhood.  Later you thought, wouldn’t it be nice to
    have a new car?  After all, what would
    your friends think of you driving this old junker?  If you bought a new car, then you would be


    Time passes.  You
    think to yourself, what I really need is a sports car.  Now that you’ve got the sports car, a Lexus
    would sure be nice.  This type of thought
    process is, of course, endless.  Every
    time you upgrade, do you feel happier? 
    Probably.  However, this is the
    type of happiness that is most fleeting. 
    There is always something better, always something more.  I suspect that, relatively speaking, you were
    no happier when you bought your first Lexus than you were when you bought your
    first bike.


    The personal economics of right desire.

    Desires are without end because desire is without end.  The Buddhists have an instructive way of
    looking at the problem of our seemingly insatiable appetites and desires.  Buddhism recognizes two different kinds of
    wanting: 1) “tanha,” the desire for pleasure objects; and 2) “chanda.” the
    desire for well-being.  Tanha is based on
    ignorance while chanda is based on wisdom. 
    In his book Buddhist Economics, Buddhist scholar P.A. Payutto
    explains the relationship between “right” desire and economics:


    When it comes to judging the ethical value of economic
    behavior, we must determine what kind of mental state is motivating it.  When greed (tanha) is driving economic
    decisions, behaviour tends to be morally unskillful, but when the desire for
    well-being (chandra) is guiding them, economic behavior will be morally
    skillful… From a Buddhist point of view, economic activities are not ends in
    themselves – they are means, and the end to which they must lead is the
    development of well-being within the individual within society and within the


    I want mine now! The problem of discounting.

    Many in our society seem to be indifferent to the ecological
    and social consequences of our addiction to growth.  What is the reason for this?  Capitalist economic theory teaches us that
    human beings are rationally self-interested. 
    If never ending growth is counterproductive, and we are rationally
    self-interested, why don’t we re-focus our energies for our own good?  The reason for our seeming inability to act
    rationally towards growth and consumerism is the phenomenon known as
    discounting.  People prefer benefits now
    rather that later, and cost later rather than now.  The practice of discounting arises because
    individuals attach less weight to a benefit or cost in the future, than they do
    to a benefit or cost now.  To test this,
    try telling a politician to support increased education funding because he or
    she will see great benefits 20 years from now. 
    Any given politician may or may not support increased education funding
    at any given time.  But the reason for
    their position, whatever it is, will have little do with the effects that
    increased education funding will have on future generations.  Politicians care about the next
    election.  If benefits cannot be seen
    immediately, they are irrelevant.


    This type of thinking is unfortunate.  The types of problems our world faces today
    are long-term and complex.  They call for
    long-term solutions.  The same incentives
    that reward the use of short-term solutions in politics are at work in the
    business community.  Chief Executive
    Officers are not rewarded for the next quarterly profits.  Stockholders are very unforgiving.  They do not want to hear plans about what
    might benefit the long-term health of the company.  They want profits now.  Treating workers with respect and loyalty
    might cost more in the short-term, but in the long-term, loyalty to workers is
    good (read profitable) for a company. 
    Workers who feel secure and respected will work better than ones who
    feel like expendable laboratory rats. 
    This might be true, but how is treating the workers with respect now
    going to make next quarter’s profits greater? 
    The answer is that it probably won’t. 
    Yet if the CEO fires (downsizes) some of his workers now, and makes the
    remaining workers pick up the slack, payroll costs will surely go down.  This means that profits next quarter will
    surely increase. 


    The average person also discounts for the future.  We all consume way too many products that we
    know, in the long run, will end up in a waste dump or a landfill.  We use ever-increasing amounts of
    non-renewable resources, knowing perfectly well that we are stealing from our
    grandchildren.  These consequences will
    arise far into the future.  We want to
    consume now!  Some people rationalize by
    saying that advances in technology will solve our waste and energy problems.  The problem with this type of wishful
    thinking is that many of the problems that we have today are created by the
    very technology that we think is going to save us.


    Nuclear energy is a great example.  We develop it to solve our energy problems,
    and we end up with waste materials that have a half-life of  two-billions years.  We develop plastic grocery bags so we don’t
    have to cut down all our trees, and we end up with bags that take hundreds of
    years to degrade in our landfills.   One
    could find endless examples of these good news/bad news stories.  The funny thing is that we are discounting
    our future to obtain products, that even in the short-term, do not make us any


    The concept of economic growth for the sake of growth had
    indeed risen to the level of a full-blow ideology.  The result of this trend has left us with a
    society that exalts consumerism and economic efficiency over all other
    values.  We have become “hungry ghosts”
    whose sole purpose is to consume, produce, consume and produce more.  The only thing that matters is more.  The quantitative has supplanted the


    Politicians, economists, and business persons are in the
    best position to help society chart a different course.  They have failed miserably.  Politicians, like us all, discount for the
    future.  Economists champion economic
    efficiency over all our values.  Accordingly,
    they too help contribute to our crises of perspective.  But most of all it is us who are to blame,
    average citizens.  What we need is to
    begin asking the right questions of our leaders.  Instead of asking, “How can we grow
    faster?  We need to ask, Towards what
    end are we growing?  Instead of
    asking, How can we be more efficient in business?  We need to ask, Toward what end does
    business serve?  Instead of asking, How
    can we increase our income so that we can consume more?  We should ask ourselves, How can we
    avoid becoming hungry ghosts?


    Matthew Joseph Medina is a 28 year-old attorney who works
    in the field of public interest law.  His
    is currently working on a masters degree at the University of Chicago.


    The three bronze cast sculptures were created by Ronald
    Garrigues.  Born in San Francisco in
    1930, Ronald Garrigues has had innumerable exhibitions of his work.  Since 1990, he has turned to using the stark
    metaphor of the skull, which he believes contains beauty but implies
    foreboding.  For more art by Ronald
    Garrigues visit   






  • Instincts

     Hey – This is a great post, and well stated and quoted.  There have been enough of us ‘messengers’ who’ve made it abundantly clear that the all-too-dominant global economic model, and social distancing from the environment, doesn’t work and has reached its end.  Now we need people who can take the lead to awaken others and start make the necessary (albeit painful to many) changes that are upon us.

    Unfortunately, its going to be a lot harder for most to ‘let go’ than for the few who welcome leaving it behind.

  • Terry

    Just read “The End of Growth” and loved it. 
    We should embrace zero growth.  Remember what Henry David Thoreau said about 150 years ago. “Most of the luxuries and many of the so called comforts are not only not indispensable but a positive hinderance to the elevation of mankind”. 

  • Prometheus

    The book of capitalist economy is in the last page and in the last paragraph.
    it’s about time to go back to the gold standard as we were for the last 6000 years.
    The printing of FIAT money is OVER. Laws to govern all including the banking system it’s about time. Socrates in His apology was right about LAWS.

  • Watchinthebakken

    Currently in the Bakken area of North Dakota, the oil companies are now creating 2560 acre (4 section units).  They contain 4 vertical section units (North/South) and 6 wells (East/West) – which are located in the middle of the 2560, Each of these 6 pads wil have 2 holes drilled.  One horizonal lateral going North and one horizontal lateral going south.  This in effect, gives you 12 wells for the 2560 acre unit.  It is very effecient because with all these laterals you are draining the unit of the currently recoverable oil.  Of course, in the Bakken since your are getting only 6% of the oil (due to the porosity) that means there is 94% of the oil left in the ground.  What technologies will extract more?  Who knows.  You probably know much more than I do about oil – and you might even already know the process I just would describe it anyway.

    This technology (fracking) has changed the game quite a bit.  If we pursue it in the other oil shale regions aggressively, we could in mininize our reliance on foreign oil – if not eliminate it completely.

    Of course, we will have to learn to deal with all the earthquakes that all this extraction will cause.  :)

  • Watchinthebakken

    II would love to see natual gas as the fuel of choice.  However, I think that one of the other detterents is that most customers will not want to sit in a car with a 1000 PSI pressurized tank.  Although I think it could easily be made just as safe with some good engineering.  It would take time to convince people, but I think they would come around.  I would also encourage car makers to build an engine around the natural gas instead of hanging a tank on a car with a common gasoline engine.  Case in Point:  A lot of people in my area converted their gasoline pickups, etc. to propane.  They always complained because the engines did not run as  well.  To get maximum BTU  effeciency out of propane, you have to  put in higher compression pistons and change the cam timing – among other tweaks.  I am not a natural gas expert, but I  would assume that it would be the same when running an engine on natural gas.  Build the engine for the fuel . . .

    With our current glut of natural gas, we should be converting/building more Power Plants, etc. to run this fuel.   Natural gas is a great first step in changing over from fossil fuels to something that is even more earth-friendly.