Monday, January 2, 2012

Well-being:  Why Grow?

Growth commonly refers to an increase in gross domestic product, or GDP, the value of a country's goods and services in a given period. Because overall GDP can correlate with higher quality of life, officials in the U.S. and around the world often target GDP growth as an overriding policy objective in itself. But the correlation is strongest when countries are poor. After a point, studies show, the size of the economy has little bearing on living standards.

James Gustave Speth, a professor at Vermont Law School and author of The Bridge at the Edge of the World: Capitalism, the Environment, and Crossing from Crisis to Sustainability, notes that the U.S. has the largest economy in the world, yet among wealthy nations it ranks last or near the bottom in 30 indicators of well-being, such as childhood poverty, income disparity, obesity, infant mortality, school performance, and prison population.

In 1950, ... per capita GDP in the U.S. was a fraction of what it is today (about one-fourth in adjusted dollars), yet surveys of happiness and life satisfaction — not to mention other indicators of well-being — have declined steadily.

For more, see The Growth of Degrowth Economics by David Villano, December 15, 2011 at Miller-McCune.

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