Blog Response 5: Homo Economicus
Standard of living is simply a measurement of quality of life. In order to maintain a certain level of standard of living, while simultaneously reducing consumption, one only has to change the metrics by which he measures quality of life. If GDP (or consumption) is currently used as the metric to define quality of life, we must turn towards a different metric, say instances of depression and anxiety, to avoid the need to grow our economy in order to meet a set standard of living.
Essentially, I am proposing the need for a value system where goods and well-being are mostly separate. However, in reality, goods and well-being will never be completely separate; after all, food items are still goods and everyone needs a certain level of nutrition to survive. Rather, a system that defines quality of life by happiness removes the need for consumptive growth and disconnects well-being from exploitation. This system would allow consumption to reach a constant level representing basic needs and if resources permit, basic wants. A basic need would include things like food, clothes, water, and shelter. A basic want might include things like a community pool, a cellphone, or a yearly trip into the mountains if you live by the beach.
However as I have mentioned, consumption can never be totally eliminated, so in order to maximize standard of living worldwide (and permit basic wants), population needs to be minimized. Since the world’s resources are finite, we must find the exact combination of population size and consumption level that permits the earth to continually renew itself, while becoming less reliant on goods that utilize non-renewable components. I believe that these standards can be set globally, with some variation to account for different cultural practices and beliefs.