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Do we agree on what "growth" means in this instance? Is is possible to have increased leisure/increased standard of living/increased health/decreasing cost of living over time, without having an incerase in GDP and an average positive return on capital? Or do we give up the expectancy of a better life for everyone if we give up economic growth as we know it?



> Do we agree on what "growth" means in this instance?

There's a disconnect between how economists use certain terms as well-defined technical jargon and how non-economists adopt them colloquially.[0] This leads to a lot of confusion when people try to discuss economics without understanding the precise meanings of the terms at play.

For the rest of this comment, I'm going to use the economic meaning of these terms, because there is agreement among economists about what "growth" means (though not how to accomplish it).

> Or do we give up the expectancy of a better life for everyone if we give up economic growth as we know it?

Yes, by definition. It would be impossible to have "a better life for everyone" without economic growth. "A better life for everyone" is economic growth, by definition (the creation of more value - whether tangible or not - given access to the same limited input resources).

> Is is possible to have increased leisure/increased standard of living/increased health/decreasing cost of living over time

That is considered "growth" to an economist, yes.

> without having an incerase in GDP and an average positive return on capital?

In theory, yes, but it turns out that an increase in GDP is so highly correlated with economic growth empirically, as well as so intrinsically linked from first principles, that they are usually used interchangeably in most discussions.

There are a few degenerate cases in which an increase in GDP does not actually correspond to economic growth, but they're pretty esoteric and not broadly applicable.

[0] As an analogy, imagine a bunch of non-programmers debating a CS paper about 'complexity' of an algorithm, and using the term 'complexity' to mean by their ability to understand how it works. That may be a relevant metric, and it may even be related to the technical use of the term 'complexity' (complexity class), but it's not really comparing apples to apples even though it's using the same word.


> "A better life for everyone" is economic growth, by definition (the creation of more value - whether tangible or not - given access to the same limited input resources).

But GDP only measures value that gets traded for money, not all value created. For example, if I care for my child at home for free, I'm creating value that isn't measured in the GDP. If instead I send my child to a child care facility, that is measured.


>It would be impossible to have "a better life for everyone" without economic growth. //

Can you go in to this more - for example I have a better life now on half the wage I had before, less means but more of the non-material blessings of life (time with family primarily). It seems if there was wide scale emulation of this that outputs in the [UK] financial system would decline but happiness/fulfilment would increase.

>That is considered "growth" to an economist, yes. //

Is there a name given to such metric generally? If GDP goes down but leisure time increases and leads a increase in health (and reduced health spending) then generally economists would refer to that as "economic growth"?


Great summary, thanks. This helps with my understanding.

So in other words, zero growth is very likely something we do not want, unless it happens to come with positive benefits that are currently not measured in dollars -- e.g. sufficiently strongly reduced long-term demand for fossil fuels that climate change will have a much smaller negative impact on people's well-being.


Fantastic analogy -will definitely be stealing that from you!


> Is is possible to have increased leisure/increased standard of living/increased health/decreasing cost of living over time, without having an incerase in GDP and an average positive return on capital?

My guess is a very emphatic yes. GDP goes up in a traffic jam; there's such a thing as "bad GDP" as well as "good GDP".




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