The End of Growth

Book review: What happens when economic growth is no longer possible—or even desirable?


(Photo: Natalie Castellino)

The End of Growth
(Random House)
Jeff Rubin

“Growth is the Holy Grail of modern societies,” writes Rubin, the former chief economist at CIBC World Markets, in the introduction of his latest book. But what happens when economic growth is no longer possible—or even desirable? Rubin sketches a future where high energy prices grind economic expansion to a halt. He sees a world where jobs are scarcer, food is more expensive and governments cut funding for libraries and universities to pay for essential services. Those predictions are relatively safe, but Rubin also demonstrates a willingness to follow his argument to unexpected places. A hike in food prices might be good for women’s rights, he suggests. “Even brutal dictatorial regimes could soon recognize that explosive population growth and food scarcity is an untenable combination,” Rubin writes. “The pragmatic instinct to head off popular unrest may lead to more progressive approaches to education and family planning than we have yet seen.” The former bank employee’s argument has a distinctly granola crunch to it, as he argues for a world where we all happily share our jobs, grow our own food and realize that material possessions don’t really matter. “We could all do a lot worse than make the best out of having less,” he writes. Which is exactly what we’ll have to do, if Rubin proves correct.