Is the End of the World at Hand?

Solow, Robert M.
March 1973
Challenge (05775132);Mar/Apr73, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p39
Academic Journal
Arguments about the desirability of economic growth often turn quickly into arguments about the "quality" of modern life. Suppose there were no issue about economic growth; suppose it were impossible; suppose each man or each woman were equipped to have only two children; suppose we were stuck with the technology we have now and had no concept of invention, or even of increased mechanization through capital investment. We could still argue about the relative merits of cutting timber for building houses or leaving it stand to be enjoyed as forest. Some people would still he willing to breath carbon monoxide in big cities in return for the excitement of urban life, while others would prefer cleaner air and fewer TV channels. Economic growth, increasing output per person, is the only possible way to achieve a more equitable distribution of income in society. The pro-growth-man is someone who is prepared to sacrifice something useful and desirable right now so that people should be better off in the future; the anti-growth-man is someone who thinks that is unnecessary or undesirable. The nature of the sacrifice of present enjoyment for future enjoyment can be almost anything.


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