Re: cars – what’s the big deal?
The economy doesn’t have random mutations and economic success is selected for. In evolution, there is no difined line of progress, no defined target to aim for. If the economy was exhibiting evolution, then that alone would be no cause for complacency, since there would be no way of knowing where it was going.
The person growing more potatoes, than he needs, trades the excess for the excess carrots that the other person grew. Either both people need the other vegetable or they will trade it on to get something else. If they both need the other vegetable, then where is the profit? Since both had the requirement (i.e. in order to survive and grow their primary vegetable), all that is going on is that both came up with a way of fulfilling the need. Overall, no profit. If they didn’t need the other vegetable, then they will either let the vegetables rot (if that rot fulfills a need, then the previous argument applies), in which case there is no overall growth, or they trade for something else that they need (as in the previous argument) or they grow the economy by trading for something they don’t need.
You can’t get growth without consuming more resources. That’s true with the economy just as it is true with living entities. It may be possible to come up with some highly constrained theoretical scenario that could allow economic growth without consuming more resources but such scenarios (or at least the ones I’ve seen) could never be practical. An example I’ve seen a few times is that information becomes the economic driver, with all other aspects of society being steady state. Profit implies growth and growth implies increasing consumption.
It’s wishful thinking to assume that the economy can, and will, morph into a completely different animal where prosperity is measured by something not physical, even if it were theoretically possible.