Economic growth. Financial markets move at the slightest hint of it, politicians think they have something to do with it and corporate plans wax lyrical about it. Were an alien to turn up on Earth they might think our very existence relied upon it.
Question remains. Is it more sweet elixir of life or red herring?
My views are no secret – growth is a starting point but it is a simple measure. If we are truly looking to improve welfare we must look deeper. My simple reasoning is that growth does not always lead to better outcomes:
- Not all growth is good – drugs, weapons, slavery all come to mind but there are a whole host of goods and services associated with outcomes that are not so rosy.
- Not all growth is progress – for example, reconstruction after a natural disaster gets you back to where you once were and extra security measures at an airport reveal distrust within society
- Growth can be concentrated – and when it is, you can end up with a growing economy but large parts of the population in poverty and without jobs.
- Money does not buy everyone happiness – money certainly has its place. However, as you get richer each dollar tends to have less benefit because you are satisfying wants not needs. On top of that, some might argue that there are non-monetary needs that cannot be bought.
- More growth from more hours – if we are working harder for our pay then we inevitably have less time to do things we enjoy.
Nothing I have said is original or all that insightful. I think that it is good because if this is all obvious to you then it should make it easier to accept that while economic growth is important that conversation should not stop there.