Even the Soviets sought to maximize economic output. But today's contemporary far-left are far bolder: they believe that economics itself is wrong.
From their perspective, government shouldn't simply control the means of economic production (socialism), it should actively work to reduce gross domestic product (GDP).
Enter Dr. Jason Hickel of the London School of Economics, a man on a crusade to end "the tyranny of GDP."
In an interview for BBC's Newsnight show on Thursday, Hickel called for "degrowth." Ignoring energy innovation in fracking, nuclear power, renewables, and battery-based power systems, Hickel claimed that Earth is running out of resources. Rich nations are apparently to blame because we "use three times our fair share of bio-capacity."
Hickel then claims that degrowth is not the same as "austerity" (reduced government spending). Instead, he says, "the goal is to increase human well-being and happiness while reducing our economic footprint."
Nevertheless, Hickel makes this sound very easy. He claims that we can "cut excess consumption by curbing advertising and taxing carbon."
Also by "introducing a basic income and a shorter working week would allow us to get rid of unnecessary jobs."
I doubt Hickel is talking about government jobs when he describes those "unnecessary." Nor are we told how the basic income would be affordable alongside declining growth.
Regardless, by calling for curbed advertising, Hickel makes clear his belief that individuals only deserve the basics. He, of course, will be ready to tell them what they need.
The simple point here is that Hickel's world would deny the individual pursuit of happiness.
We know this thanks to an article Hickel wrote for The Guardian in July. He explained that "industrialized countries will have no choice but to downscale their economic activity by 4-6 percent per year. And poor countries are going to have to follow suit after 2025, downscaling by about 3 percent per year."
There's a particularly pernicious quality in this far-left talk. This isn't just a theory for the opinion pages, it's a manifesto for human misery.
First off, consider what "downscaling by about 3 percent per year" would mean for "poor countries."
Especially at the lower-skilled levels it would mean mass unemployment, the entrenchment of political power with a wealthy elite and away from emergent middle classes, declining foreign investment, and government's growing inability to provide basic services to the people. In that, it would be a recipe for civil strife and violence.
For rich countries? A 4-6 percent economic decline would be the endorsement of a permanent great depression. Again, employment, living standards, productivity, and aspiration would all fall by the wayside. And as individuals jockeyed to survive, corruption would grow endemic. Forget innovations such as new medicines, new iPhones, and high-value research. The future would be bleak, and perpetually so.
But don't take Hickel's word or my attestations for it.
Ask the people of Vietnam. Once communists, they are now the world's most avowed proponents of capitalism.
They are the proof of Hickel's lie.