OW: I come down somewhere in the middle on this article. You are completely right about knowledge being the most important component of growth and there being no tight relationship between growth in the total value of output and the extraction of raw materials from the earth. I am surprised that so many readers are still repeating the fallacies of the “Limits to Growth” literature of the 1970s.

That being said, let’s not overrate the virtues of growth of GDP. More GDP per capita has a big payoff for people in countries that are still poor, but not much for those that are already rich. Check out the data here that show a very weak association between GDP and real human welfare (health, environmental quality, personal freedoms, etc.) among already-rich countries.

When all is said and done, the question is not whether infinite growth is possible (it is, in your sense) but how hard we should push growth vs. how much we should emphasize the broader conditions of human flourishing.

Written by

Economist, Senior Fellow at Niskanen Center, Yale Ph.D. Interests include environment, health care policy, social safety net, economic freedom.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store