The endless growth box


Let’s start this week’s post with a puzzle: see the figure above, the challenge here is to connect the 9 dots with 4 straight lines without lifting the pen. Take your time, you will find the answer at the end of this posting.

And now for something completely different, as you can read below, great thinkers and Economy Nobel Prize winners don’t have a clue on what to do next to overcome the economic crisis that has been hitting the world since 2008 (see the full article here). One would expect that the greatest economists in the world would agree on 2 or 3 basic economic policies but so far the only consensus among the experts is that global crisis will be with us for a long time. “I only know that I know nothing”, as Socrates once said. Fiscal austerity, fiscal stimulus, debt monetization, Quantitative Easing, financial regulation, financial liberalization, more taxes, less taxes…  Different attempts have been made to return the economy to the path of growth with little success.


Well, maybe growth is the problem. As already pointed out by many authors, the world may be reaching the physical limits of growth (or the limits of pollution, for that matter). We only have to look around us to realize that nothing grows endlessly in nature. When a living being is born, it grows very fast at first, but after some time – can be weeks, months or years – it slows down and, eventually, it stops growing at all. Something similar happens with populations, they can’t grow forever due to the limits imposed by finite resources, so either an equilibrium situation is reached sooner than later or the population faces collapse.

But still, despite the numerous evidences that indicate that we’re reaching the limits of natural resources (fresh water, aquifers, arable land, fisheries, oil – you name it), mainstream economists are trying to stubbornly respond to economic crisis with the same old measures that worked in the past, in a growing world, before reaching those resource limits.

OK, it’s time to come back to the game. Here is the answer to the challenge:


To solve the puzzle, you have to beyond the figure border, otherwise there is no chance to resolve it. This is the traditional game that is presented as example of out-of-box thinking. Sometimes we need to think from a different perspective to find a solution for a specially difficult problem. Most economists are still inside the endless growth box, but many other people (including more than 1000 Transition Initiatives) have already gone beyond that box, I invite you to do the same.


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