“Why are we so fixated on economic growth?
Since the mid-20th century, economic growth has taken on a dominant position in the way practically every country arranges its affairs and priorities.
Growth has become shorthand for increasing living standards. It often means more people in work and more companies in business. Its opposite, recession, normally means bankruptcies and redundancies.
And so growth has become a holy grail for governments seeking re-election.
But some people have benefited more from growth than others, despite global gross domestic product (GDP) growing by more than 5,000% since the 1960s. Inequality has boomed in advanced economies since the 1970s, while the mounting risk of catastrophic global warming raises serious questions about the links between growth and carbon emissions.
Yet our economies have become structurally dependent on growth. Finance ministries and central banks pursue economic expansion as the primary goal, with rising GDP providing higher taxes.
Growth as a metaphor for prosperity has become deeply embedded through language. We like to see our children grow, or our gardens. Growth as a fundamentally human movement is life and progress. But there is another end of the metaphor: that growth can be cancerous. …”