Do not try to prove your strength by wine-drinking,
for wine has destroyed many.
As the furnace tests the work of the smith,
so wine tests hearts when the insolent quarrel.
Wine is very life to human beings
if taken in moderation.
What is life to one who is without wine?
It has been created to make people happy.
Wine drunk at the proper time and in moderation
is rejoicing of heart and gladness of soul.
Wine drunk to excess leads to bitterness of spirit,
to quarrels and stumbling.
Drunkenness increases the anger of a fool to his own hurt,
reducing his strength and adding wounds.
- Ecclesiasticus 31.25-30 (NRSV).Going to the pub for a drink with mates can be a very enjoyable experience. A pint or a dram, some good conversation, some laughs, maybe another drink and some time soaking up one another's company. Another drink? Why not, we're having a good time. With a proper sense of proportion, alcohol can make the heart glad (Psalm 104.15). But before long, drinking becomes drunkenness, and repeated drunkenness makes one a drunkard (cf. Ephesians 5.18; Galatians 5.21). By the time someone is seeing relationships fall apart and their liver, brain, heart, pancreas, nervous system, kidneys, bones, skin and/or sexual function give way from abuse we are well past the point at which enjoyment has turned into self-destruction. Alcohol use represents a gradual progression from a good blessing into a significant evil, without necessarily a clear line where one becomes the other.* The physical and social ills of alcoholism are vindications of (or at least corroborations of) scriptural warnings against drunkenness, yet spiritual injury can occur even prior to obvious relational or physical damage and the believer does not require sociological or medical research on the effects of alcohol abuse to trust the biblical witness on this matter. The latter are helpful confirmations of what has already been revealed, illustrating the principle that we reap what we sow and that part of God's present judgement upon human wickedness is to allow us to experience some of the consequences of our misdeeds.
*Many jurisdictions create such markers through legal limits on blood alcohol levels, but all such lines must be somewhat arbitrary when extended across a whole population with quite different physiological and mental reactions to alcohol.
But this is not really a post about alcoholism.
Seeking more economic growth* for developed economies is like offering vodka to a man already lying a pool of his own vomit. Justifying it by pointing out secondary benefits misses the point; the extra waitstaff will be out of a job unless enough booze is sold, but why should the security of someone's job justify aiding the dissolution of life? With a proper sense of proportion, some kinds of economic growth can be a good blessing on a society. But the pursuit of growth in all circumstances by all means at whatever cost is ultimately self-destructive. There is no hard and fast line between the one and the other. Attempts to calculate ecological footprints and planetary boundaries may give a ballpark idea of where growth starts being suicidal, but that doesn't mean that it is where the problem starts. The desire for growth without reference to the rest of the body is wrong in principle, not just once the symptoms of overshoot start to appear. The ecological and resource crises that are increasingly manifest may illustrate the ruinous trajectory of the desire, but from inception, the desire for growth without reference to context is already based on some combination of greed, myopia, lust for power and a reckless disregard for creaturely limits.
*There is some debate about just what is meant by economic growth. Most definitions at least strongly imply the increasing extraction and exploitation of physical resources for economic purposes, which is my primary concern in this discussion.