Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 6: A further critique of growth economics
Four years ago I wrote a critique of the ‘Growth Report’, a two-year study by the prestigious international Commission on Growth and Development (2008), published by the World Bank. Here I would like to reflect on the ‘reaction’ to my review – specifically that it was ignored! Many issues and many people are deservedly ignored. But should we ignore the question of whether growth still increases wealth faster than ‘illth’, as it did in the past empty world, or whether in the new full world it has begun to increase illth faster than wealth? Is growth still economic in the literal sense, or has it become uneconomic? This is the main question raised in my review. Surely it is not a trivial question, and my discomfort at seeing it roundly ignored transcends the mere personal pique that one feels at being brushed off. So I will begin with a few remarks on why I think my critical review failed to initiate a dialog with the authors of the Growth Report, and why I think that is indicative of a deeper failing within the economics profession. Following that I will consider the 11 fallacies and confusions that in my experience most frequently obstruct reasoning about growth. The ‘Growth Report’ was done by a blue ribbon panel of 18 members from 16 countries, including two Nobel laureates in economics. It had many august sponsors, the main one being the World Bank. It can fairly be taken to represent the prevailing orthodox view on growth.
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