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Economics for beginners: Growth and the “done things” 17 October 2008

Posted by Dr Moose in Life, Ponderings, Recommendations.

…economic growth may be a necessary condition for the relief of poverty and can be desirable for middle- and high-income people too, it is not enough on its own. Governments and society need to be judged on so much more than simply whether their economies are growing.

So ends a nice little primer on the place and value of economic growth, courtesy of the good old BBC news website. I’m not an economist, and numbers make my head hurt, but this seems a nicely balanced piece.

Another interesting quote is:

If poverty is to be relieved and the rich are not to be made poorer, then growth is necessary. Of course, making the poor richer is not easy and there are many political obstacles in the way. But at least growth makes it easier.

I rather like that – although maybe it (inadvertently) summarises one of the great presumptions of our time. It is a well-worn political statement, especially in New Labour circles to speak of “equality of opportunity” rather than simply “equality.” It’s not how much you have, it’s having the same opportunity as everyone else, in this case to prosper – except that means inequality is an almost inevitable result as some will always prosper more than others. Sociological discussions of poverty so often end up being held in relative terms, with a definition having to include material goods, and the inevitable questions of whether lacking a TV, computer, or whatever automatically makes you poor. A colleague of mine highlighted this sort of thing recently – that when he got married you were grateful for anything you had in the way of furniture, with most of it being secondhand. Now with his daughter getting married it is presumed the furniture will be new. It’s just the done thing.

It makes me wonder just how many “done things” there are which really bear much closer examination? (And, if you want to start me off on more questions of consumerism and need, don’t ask me about toothpaste brands and breakfast cereal varieties…!)

Hmm. Time to go, I think.



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