Economy

Exponential growth is not the best measure of a society’s success

Letter curtailed with permission from the writer, Kenneth Obel, Wilmette, IL, US. 

He writes: “I am a lawyer in Chicago. I follow and write about sustainability issues.”

Published: FT – January 11 2011 02:28

Extract:

What do we have for all of the “growth” of the recent past? A lot of flat-screen televisions and other incredible innovations, to be sure. Also, a lot of half-empty subdivisions, deforestation, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, climate change and stagnant incomes for all but the richest households. 

There are limits to growth: the Earth is finite. As many have pointed out, the only thing that tries to grow exponentially forever is cancer – and it eventually kills its host. 

Economists and journalists, from left to right on the political spectrum, bear special responsibility for perpetuating the myth that infinite economic growth (reflected in gross domestic product) is not only possible, but the best measure of a successful society. It is a pervasive underlying assumption of speeches, articles and economic policies, one that is now getting some overdue re-examination.

Renegade economists such as Herman Daly, former chief economist of the World Bank, have long been challenging this conventional wisdom and advancing a new set of ideas that de-emphasise raw growth and outline a vision of prosperity based on qualitative measures. 

To read this substantial letter in full,  copy and paste the link: http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/1226d6b6-1d18-11e0-b597-00144feab49a.html#axzz1B0q5J3iE