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A Tale of Two Theories

PARIS – Global growth disappoints again. A year ago, the International Monetary Fund expected world output to rise 4% in 2015. Now the Fund is forecasting 3.3% for the year – about the same as in 2013 and 2014, and more than a full percentage point below the 2000-2007 average.

In the eurozone, growth in the latest quarter was underwhelming. Japan has returned to negative territory. Brazil and Russia are in recession. World trade has stalled. And China’s economic slowdown and market turmoil this summer have created further uncertainty.

True, there are bright spots: India, Spain, and the United Kingdom are beating expectations. The United States’ recovery is solid. Africa is doing well. But, overall, it is hard to deny that the global economy lacks momentum.

This is partly because trees cannot grow forever: China’s economy could not continue to get 10% bigger every year. And in part, it is because growth is not unconditionally desirable: Citizens may be better off with a little less of it, and more clean air.