A Sober Look at Ourselves and our Economic Growth Models

By Lodewikus Lombaard, member of the St. Gallen Symposium's global Leaders of Tomorrow community

Humanity is cunningly brave, lucidly paranoid and sensibly greedy. This human behavior keeps us fed, differentiates us from the animals and forms our economic growth models. Given how inextricably linked what we are and the way we grow are, I support our current growth models as practical instruments. Growth models stem from human nature, form our business practices and logically evolve into our policies.

For the same reason smokers smoke disregarding consequences, humanity will stick to current growth models as tools that maximize short term utility. This is because the human collective perceives the future as far away and we are not programmed to forego profits and growth today in the name of an idealistic tomorrow.

I would love to argue that someday growth models will be based on altruistic intentions. However, this wishful thinking is as realistic as hoping that one day humanity will wake up as a species with different characteristics. Although others passionately argue for growth models based on happiness, societal values and other niceties - the reality is that we can't bank benevolence or consume kumbaya's. Our growth models work because they are geared towards obtaining results that are based on survival rather than ethical considerations.

I concede that the most enlightened of our species are shifting towards growth models that take into account realities such as the poor shape of our planet, the need for equitable growth and happiness. I am sad to think that this might be too little too late to influence the growth mentality and trajectory. Therefore, I invite all those with good intentions to make placards, occupy Wall Street and rage against the capitalistic machine. However, I caution that humanity will use its time in an economically productive way by seeking out wealth and growth.

As long as the human spirit rages within us and the invisible hand guides us, the attributes that make us survivors will rage in the world market. I'm not defending current growth models as good-hearted or saying that they're bad. I'm underscoring the reality that they are every bit as practical and ugly as we are.

Growth - The good, the bad, and the ugly will be debated in the light of the 46th&nbspSt.&nbspGallen Symposium&nbsp(11-13&nbspMay&nbsp2016).