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Rethinking Growth and Revisiting the Entrepreneurial State

While important, economic growth in the abstract is not a coherent goal or mission around which governments should orient their policymaking. The kind of inclusive, sustainable, and robust growth that they want ultimately comes as a byproduct of pursuing other socially beneficial collective ends.

LONDON – From high-level policy debates and political manifestos to everyday news coverage, anxiety about economic growth is everywhere. In Germany, the government’s latest budget identifies stronger growth as a top priority. In India, national leaders are eager to reclaim their country’s place as the world’s fastest-growing economy. In China, where the prospect of deflation looms, the government is undoubtedly worried about hitting its 5% growth target for the year.

In the United Kingdom, Keir Starmer, the leader of the opposition Labour Party, has vowed to secure the highest sustained growth in the G7 if given power, and the ruling Conservatives express similar ambitions (recall former Prime Minister Liz Truss’s now-infamous mantra: “growth, growth, and growth”).

But putting growth at the center of economic policymaking is a mistake. While important, growth in the abstract is not a coherent goal or mission. Before committing to particular targets (be it GDP growth, overall output, and so forth), governments should focus on the economy’s direction. After all, what good is a high growth rate if achieving it requires poor working conditions or an expanding fossil-fuel industry?

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