22 September 2020

Why bigger, if smaller we can?

A memetical about limits to growth and happily living local

Growing bigger seems to be in our blood. Economists tell us that it is good to grow on.  Looking at nature we see nothing alike. So why do we continue to believe that’s the right way?

History may have an answer to that.  Lets go back a century or so, say 1900. The industrial revolution is kicking in nicely, the middle class is on the rise and people start to buy stuff. More efficient ways of production appear, machines take over from workers.

Buying machines, though, takes investment. To earn back the cash, it takes a certain scale of operation to make your profits in a reasonable timescale.  

Time becomes money. The less time it takes to make an item, the less it costs. According to these new laws, growing bigger is more efficient. No second thoughts yet about pollution or scarce resources.

Economies of scale dictate a minimum size of operation that matches the volume of the market. Producing at a national scale in those days seemed like a logical option.

But at that time, the entire population of a country like the Netherlands added up to a mere 4,5 million people. That is the size of an average city today.

Present technology however is far more flexible and capable then technology was a century ago. So are our infrastructure and communications.  Why not make bikes just for your city then? Or cereals, or soap. No reason any more to drag the stuff half way over the globe. We have all the options to make them nearby.

Going local, profits still will be sufficient. And even bigger if ecological costs are taken into account. Local economies will be stronger and more resilient, less affected by economical or financial crises.

The rationale to ever go bigger simply is not valid anymore. It has become a bad habit instead. Let’s go into rehab. And find out that smaller is nicer after all.