Skip to main content

3347700346f86fe80ebbfc05_pa77c.jpg Paul Lachine

Rethinking the Growth Imperative

Modern macroeconomics often seems to treat rapid and stable economic growth as the be-all and end-all of policy. But, while that is the message from graduate classrooms to central-bank boardrooms to newspapers’ front pages, is it true?

CAMBRIDGE – Modern macroeconomics often seems to treat rapid and stable economic growth as the be-all and end-all of policy. That message is echoed in political debates, central-bank boardrooms, and front-page headlines. But does it really make sense to take growth as the main social objective in perpetuity, as economics textbooks implicitly assume?

Certainly, many critiques of standard economic statistics have argued for broader measures of national welfare, such as life expectancy at birth, literacy, etc. Such appraisals include the United Nations Human Development Report, and, more recently, the French-sponsored Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, led by the economists Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, and Jean-Paul Fitoussi.

But there might be a problem even deeper than statistical narrowness: the failure of modern growth theory to emphasize adequately that people are fundamentally social creatures. They evaluate their welfare based on what they see around them, not just on some absolute standard.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/cNKjvsn;
  1. solana109_robert wallisCorbis via Getty Images_manhittingberlinwall Robert Wallis/Corbis via Getty Images

    The Partial Triumph of 1989

    Javier Solana

    The fall of the Berlin Wall in November 1989 marked the end not of a historical chapter, but of a paragraph. Although capitalism currently has no rival, it has proven its compatibility with illiberal forces.

    0
  2. sachs315_Pablo Rojas MadariagaNurPhoto via Getty Images_chileprotestmanbulletface Pablo Rojas Madariaga/NurPhoto via Getty Images

    Why Rich Cities Rebel

    Jeffrey D. Sachs

    Having lost touch with public sentiment, officials in Paris, Hong Kong, and Santiago failed to anticipate that a seemingly modest policy action (a fuel-tax increase, an extradition bill, and higher metro prices, respectively) would trigger a massive social explosion.

    4

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions