What if economic growth is no longer possible in the 21st century (good read via TheWeek.com)

This post is spot-on and brings up some key questions. Be sure to read the whole thing.

What if economic growth is no longer possible in the 21st century?

One possible scenario, with surprisingly good news for average Americans, is that constraints on growth will force political leaders to accept redistribution as a policy tool. Indeed, if we cannot grow our way to broadly shared prosperity again, redistribution is the only way to save the middle class. Many economists have warned that the old model is dying out. In a much-cited paper, Robert Gordon argues that the rapid growth we take for granted is not only historically anomalous but likely to slow significantly in the 21st century, pointing in particular to diminishing returns from technology as one major drag. Developed countries have already picked the “low-hanging fruit” of technological advance (in Tyler Cowen’s phrase), and future innovations will produce far less growth, he argues. Steven King, chief economist at HSBC, similarly argues, “The underlying reason for the stagnation is that a half-century of remarkable one-off developments in the industrialized world will not be repeated…there is no politically feasible solution to the climate change problem unless both the U.S. and China honestly recognize the connection between restricting emissions and curbing growth

Chart_Week

The conclusions that flow from these observations are stark. The old economic paradigm relied on unsustainable growth, so we must change the paradigm. For decades, our rising standard of living came at a deep cost to our environment and our children’s future. There is simply not enough planetary bio-capacity to grow our way out of the messy moral discussions of distribution. The idea that inequality is merely an inefficiency to be corrected with a technocratic fix or perpetual growth is no longer tenable.

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