Grow Slow: The Next Economic Trend?

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Grow Slow: The Next Economic Trend?The economic news came out today, and listening to it made me wonder if the next economic trend is “grow slow.”

According to the Conference Board, unemployment is down to its lowest point in two years, and that’s good. Job creation is up, especially for jobs traditionally held by young males, who have had a hard time getting started in the workplace over the last couple of years. That’s good too.

But wages have slipped. That’s not so good.

The interviewer asked the guy from the Conference Board whether this bodes well for a true economic recovery. The Conference Board guy said, yes, sort of – if you like long, slow recoveries.

I think there’s a lot to be said for long, slow recoveries. I think maybe it could even get to be a way of life.

After all, what did the wild economic boom-time get us?

  • It got us used to consuming at an unprecedented level. We have been gobbling up resources, gadgets, mini-mansions, Hummers, spa treatments, and flat screen TVs like they were going out of style. Which, after all, they may be. So much consumption makes a person flabby, overstuffed, and a little self-disgusted. Also it makes a person addicted.
  • It got us used to working ourselves at a fever pitch, especially here in the US. We’ve had to, in order to keep up with our debt. Most families have two income earners. There’s no one left to put to work, child labor laws being what they are. And we need every bit of two incomes to make ends meet.
  • And speaking of debt, it got us into towering piles of debt. No need to spend a lot of time on the pernicious nature of debt. That topic’s been done.

We’re good at economic booms, and how. But what if we did a grow-slow economic simmer?

What would our culture look like with long-term slow growth?

  • Would we consume less and appreciate more? Maybe we would gobble fewer resources. Hang onto a perfectly good car until it travels its last mile, before going out to buy another one. Give up the seductive TV and play some Scrabble, or read a book, or sit and have long, meandering conversations.
  • Would we stop masquerading as Superman and Wonder Woman at work? Maybe we’d  put in a good day’s productive work, then leave it behind at a decent hour for a real rest, well-earned. Maybe we wouldn’t be so afraid to take a week or 10 days off, lest someone fill in and do our job better than we do.
  • Would we learn to live without debt? Many of us have been forced to do so already, and have found it challenging and also liberating. Imagine buying things without debt. You’d have to plan ahead, and save, and before you spend the money you’d naturally think about whether you still want that thing that seemed so crucial to your happiness six months ago when you started saving.

I’ve done economic simmer before, and it was the nicest time of my life. Once I got over the DTs from having no credit cards, and once I stopped pouting because I couldn’t have what I wanted when I wanted it, I settled into a peaceful, satisfied existence.

My children were fed and clothed. We had a roof over our heads.

I had a job I liked that didn’t pay much but but it paid enough for what we truly needed. I can remember thinking to myself that I liked that kind of life much better than the life I had when I had lots of money, because when I had lots of money I was stressed. All the time. Having enough money to live on but not enough to fling around without conscious regard is, in my opinion, a better way to live.

So why don’t I live that way all the time? Because the boom-time is a siren. It’s like a beer set before an alcoholic who is really enjoying sobriety, but who still remembers what fun it could be to get a little tipsy now and again. I’ll just have this one beer, and that will be it.


Have you all heard of the slow food movement? Their vision is that people deserve slow food – the antithesis of fast food. People deserve food that is grown with care instead of mass produced; that is seasonal and local instead of transported half way around the world in an attempt to render nature irrelevant; and that is cooked nutritiously instead of flash fried in week-old lard. Sounds good to me.

I’ll take a four-hour bolognese sauce over a 90-second Big Mac any day.

The economy could learn from the slow food movement. What would that look like? Slow money would be the antithesis of a fast buck. People deserve slow money that is earned doing things that matter; that is husbanded and invested in things that matter; that is respected as a measure of energy and time, and that is appropriately balanced with the parts of life that are not about money.

What do you think, World of Dreamers? Is it a pipe dream? Is there a world where a slow grow simmer economy could thrive?

Leave a comment and share your thoughts.


  • In my post, Some Straight Talk About Time And Your Big Dream I quoted Brian Tracy with the following —

    “Brian Tracy likes to share the story of Dr. Edward Banfield of Harvard University who studied the many factors that were thought to contribute to individual financial success over the course of a person’s lifetime. He found that there was one primary factor that took precedence over all the others. He called it “time perspective.”

    What Banfield found was that, the higher a person rises in any society, the longer is the time perspective or time horizon of that person. People at the highest social and economic levels make decisions and sacrifices that may not pay off for many years, sometimes not even in their own lifetimes. “They plant trees under which they will never sit.” (Brian Tracy The 100 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws of Business Success)”

    So financially successful people do it with the “grow slow” method by making sacrifices for years that they may or may not enjoy in their lifetime. We hear the “get rich quick” stories (where I believe we are never told the FULL story) — not the stories where it takes people 45 years to achieve their success.

    It goes back to the same story I tell bloggers and dreamers who only want to do one year with 8 Women Dream. I let them, but I want them to recognize that not much will happen in that first year because you haven’t blogged long enough, or worked long enough on your dream to make it come true. You could put a trip on a credit card and go to a dream destination, but not much more.

    In a year, you can start the journey and that’s about it. But if you stick with it over time, like a good workout program, eventually people will begin to notice what you are doing. You’ll try new things, change old ways of doing things, and become a person who is fully capable of achieving their dream … but it takes time.

    And like growing money, there is no Magic 8 Ball that will tell you in “–” you will be “–“. You have to stick with it until you get where you want to be. It’s like time is the currency you must pay.

    I think this economy speaks to the fact that we have to step outside of ourselves and work to create our own American Dream while we work with other people/jobs/companies and never again expect that our job will see us through. We have to be resourceful — like it or not.

    As for high-paying jobs and stress … it depends on the job. If you are doing what you love, it’s wonderful… if you are doing it for the money … it’s stressful. People have to start looking at doing what they love, instead of looking for security. It’s the only way.

    Great post.


  • Marcus

    Really good article! Thanks, was a pleasure to read! I hate going slow though. I have a limited amount of patience and I am sure this is hindering many areas of my life. The thought of this recovery taking years depresses me.

  • I think it’s exactly what we need. I know people are struggling now and have been for a few years, but I think it’s a necessary sacrifice that will benefit our overall future. I think if we had continued gobbling up resources and amassing all this debt, we might have reached the point of no return. No one knows how close we were a few years ago from a total collapse. I think we may not have been able to recover period if we had went much longer in that spend spend mindset.