More is not always more – official

In Uncategorized on May 31, 2013 at 11:26 am


Since my post about being bewildered by the concept of eternal economic growth I really did try and read some of the books you suggested about it.

I even bought a couple of them and read most of a chapter.

I was immediately engaged by a notion new to me: through put. This is the official term for what I had tried to describe in my economically illiteracy as natural resources being made into stuff and then ending up in landfill. It was equally comforting and terrifying to learn that proper actual academics are worried about this too. So worried they have a term for it.

But then I really couldn’t read any more because I was just longing to get back to this simply marvellous biography of Beau Brummell…


I decided I just couldn’t devote that much of my life’s finite reading time to economics. So I was very glad yesterday when I came across a piece in the London Evening Standard by my one-time colleague Anthony Hilton.

Anthony is a big and real proper grown up economic commentator so to read him saying (in an article I could read on the train in a couple of minutes…) that being obsessed about economic growth is NOT the answer, was very interesting.

He also had a lot of interesting stuff to say about how that links in with Australia coming – yet again – top of the world’s rankings for Quality of Life. I thought you might like to read it.




  1. A biography on Beau Brummell?! I am so reading that!

  2. I love your posts maggie .. They make my day xxxxxxxx I think we are sooo similar David Attenborough has made a serise about it ….

  3. Poor Beau such a sad ending to his life. No govenrment benefits for ex favourites of the monarch or aged pensioners then .

    Interesting that Australia and its comparable country Canada are the top three in the quality fo life stakes ..although there are concerns some of us Australians have about our country here is not the place for it.

    will look out for the Beau biography Regency history

  4. Interesting article. I wonder though, is it a government’s job to ensure happiness? And I love the illustration through Olympic medals of the winner of the bronze usually being happier than the winner of the silver. During the Olympics there were scathing reports of athletes disappointed with their silvers but now I see why! And, by the way, why wouldn’t we be happiest down here with fireworks like that to look forward to each NYE? 😉

    • Not the government’s job to ensure happiness, but if they look after everything they should – makes it more possible? I loved that bronze/silver thing too.

  5. Ha ha ha! Love your honesty. Imagine my round peg/square hole experience with nigh on 20 years in the finance/superannuation (pensions) industry. I did often arrive at work with the Fin Review tucked under my arm; but, oh my, there was something more delectable in my handbag for lunchtime reading. Probably one of your books, actually…

  6. Dear Maggie, Wow the harbour looks too good to be true in that pic, doesn’t? … Someone had a little fiddle there with NYE, Sydney …
    A. I think the term Economic Growth is used far too widely at the moment. Everyone wants to clutch at something that will help to lift us out the current situation and “growth” is copping a hammering (vs perhaps “improvement in reasonable expectations/confidence to invest”, etc…). Financial world friends of mine say “stay calm and do the best you can till a predicted general/global lift in confidence in 2016”. 2016!!!! Brilliant!!.
    B. Of course happiness is most important. Happiness should be a subject taught at school like ethics, music and mathematics and also a subject talked about broadly, easily and regularly in families, social groups and workplaces the world over.
    In general – too much focus on financial gain and too little on the happy soul and the right to want to have one/be one. B

  7. And as usual I have done things arse about face: I didn’t read the article you linked to until after writing my previous note..

    I sat here in my little mud house, reading extracts from the Anthony Hilton’s piece to my husband. We looked at each other with raised eyebrows: “Bloody hell! How bad must it be in other countries?” I hasten to add that we are well aware of how privileged we are to live in Australia; but certain aspects of our emerging government policies, corporate culture blah blah blah have of late saddened us. To say the least.

    The search for happiness vs “success” started to eat away at us a few years ago. We live quite differently now to compared to our days back in Sydney in the 80s and 90s. Nothing purist or worthy about our changes; we just stopped caring about a lot of things that we “should” have wanted.

    I still love looking at/owning beautiful stuff, and I still fantasise about earning what I used to earn; but when I take time to breathe and really look around me, it is often lovely.

    We run off solar power here, and last night all our power cut out (we were watching “Skyfall”, so I was a bit miffed). But how nice it was to just sit by the fire, in candlelight. Happiness!

    • Your choices are similar to mine, Jane. I sometimes feel ILL that I’ve left the big cities I love behind, but I was just walking down my road looking at all the wild flowers on the bank on one side (it’s a country park on one side, houses on the other), the elderflower tree in bloom – after dropping my daughter at a her friend’s house for a sleepover in a tent, then chatting to neighbours and looking down at the sea and I thought – would I REALLY rather be in a city? At this moment – no. Sometimes, yes – but right now, N.O. xxx

  8. I read an interview with the author Michael Crichton quite a long time ago. I cannot remember his exact words, but he said something like the difference to your life between not having enough money to live on and having enough to pay your bills comfortably was enormous. But once you have enough money to live comfortably, having a great deal more money did not make a great deal of difference to the amount of happiness in your life. As he was 1. very rich indeed and 2. very very clever and 3. died at a young age, I think he knew what he was talking about.

    • I didn’t know he died. Sounds like he appreciated it while he had it which is so big a part of it. I am mystified by the new Super Rich who are so so visible in London now, who just seem to want more more more. It’s like they’re terrified if they stop getting MORE they’ll lose what they have.

      London has changed unbelievably in the last few years because of this new sector. Not for the better! There are parts of Mayfair now where you take your life in your hands walking down the street because of all the giant chauffer driven cars ignoring pedestrian crossings and turning off without indicating. It makes you feel life a peasant being sprayed with mud from the King’s carriage wheels…

  9. Maggie, for a riveting economic read, try Plutocrats by Chyrstia Freeland. All about the super-duper rich, and how they got rich and the GFC. No eye-glazing in sight – it’s a page turner. Just couldn’t put it down. And I know I’d enjoy Beau Brummell too.

    • What is GFC? Going up to London as I do at least once a week, you are very aware of the super-duper rich. They’ve taken the bloody place over! Will have a look at it, but Beau Brummel first… (and have been distracted from that by a brilliant novel, I’m being a terrible book butterfly at the moment.)

  10. Hi Maggie
    Love your comments
    Another writer that helps make some sense of the pursuit of growth is John Ralston Saul from Canada. He describes economics as a speculative science and that while economic history may be useful it is often ignored.
    Keep reading

    • SOunds very interesting, but as I’ve now been told about a brilliant biography of Balenciaga, I fear I won’t get to it… Naughty, but honest!

  11. ‘I decided I just couldn’t devote that much of my life’s finite reading time to economics.’

    Preach it sister.

  12. That thing about having control of your own destiny being a big factor in happiness….I really get that. Some cultures are pretty oppressive to the individual and highly judgemental (personal experience) so it makes sense that Australia is ahead in that regard.

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