Limits to Growth

The political economist John Stuart Mill understood that there were limits to growth. He recognised in the 19th Century that capitalism and the pursuit of wealth had to be restrained and regulated, lest the desire for more should lead to a kind of “suicide economy” in which the relentless march of excess undermines the capacity of a system to renew and sustain itself. He felt that that unregulated striving for profit and gain that is not tempered by moral and spiritual reflection can lead to harsh and uninvited consequences. In the Principles of Political Economy, he wrote, “if the earth must lose that great portion of its pleasantness which it owes to things that the unlimited increase of wealth and population would extirpate from it, I sincerely hope for the sake of posterity, that they will be content to be stationary long before necessity compels them”.

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