The Hegemony of Growth

Growth is always a goal in many countries, statistics appear everywhere and it's always discussed. Even small reductions in GDP are met with bitter disappointment, it's become one of the most important measures in the modern era.

But why? Where did this obsession come from?

There are surprisingly few discussions or resources on when and why this did happen. Previously there were disparate measures of production or measures of territorial expansion. Even in the times of the Industrial Revolution, the constant measuring of long term growth was not undertaken. The usage of the words for 'Growth' (In many languages) has only started happening after WWII. Most existing studies focus on national studies, but to truly understand it's rise, you must look internationally and the relations between nations.

GDP as a measure

The claim is that GDP is an adequate measure of the value of a complete economy and it's participants, it becomes a universal understood number, or has it?

Growth as a Panacea

Growth will fix all our challenges in our society. This idea starts in the 50s as a reaction to Post War, Cold War and European recovery factors. Countries in the OECD set targets that became more and more unattainable and levelled off.

Growth as Endless

There was an assumption that it could continue for ever if there were the right policies, structures etc.

Growth as a universal yardstick

'Growth' also means that everything else is OK. Social-Wellbeing, Progress, Development, Modernity, National Power and Prestige. These were all counters to the devastation nations felt after WWII and helped them resurrect the idea of progress. As Growth is 'good', there can never be enough, it can never stop and it will always be OK.

Gross Domestic Problem: The Politics of GDP

Many people speak about GDP without really understanding what it is or why the measure it. It was created initially in the 30s by Franklin Rosevelt so he had a measure of if his policies were successful. The first report was issued in 1937 and it was used to measure if the American economy could afford to enter WWII. This was the first time an economist was used to plan a war, unlike Germany who planned their war through soldiers.

During the cold war GDP was almost a weapon used against the Soviets, the CIA used it to disprove anything that came out of the East. In 1989 the East even admitted defeat and said "Your number is better than ours" and we enter GDP's phase as the be-all-and-end-all of measurements with the World Bank and IMF running training sessions with countries on how to measure GDP. The Americans even wanted to celebrate GDP as the "Greatest invention of the 20th Century" as it had created a level playing field... Great?

In the past ten years we start to enter a new era that has realised the GDP doesn't tell you everything, it has actually betrayed us and discussions began around terms such as 'Gross Happiness Product'.

Even the inventor of GDP gave warnings about the misuse of his term and what it may lead to if followed blindly. He assumed that after WWII, GDP would stop being used, it was a war time measure in his mind. He thought that every generation should redefine their measure of GDP, as every generation would have different visions and circumstances, but no one listened.

European politics has enforced certain targets and measures around how member states should measure and adhere to GDP. In 2010 a new paper was issued saying that countries in debt could be exempt, this was then debunked by a 19 year old, despite the damage it had caused.

GDP originally never included certain measures such as prostitution, gambling and drugs. Until recently! With countries so desperate to show some form of growth, they got into ridiculous levels of detail about how to measure this.

Even the current head of the World Bank has criticised GDP, which has been blown out of proportion and he was forced to redact his statements.

The Chinese however are looking into measuring environmental factors, is withdrawing GDP as a measure and looking into other measurements. Africa is much the same and is looking into moving on from GDP. These areas are areas with vast workforces and resources so they may end up challenging our paradigms.

Sustainable Development

The Growth of Humanity influences our discussions on growth as we have only met our limits to geographical expansion in around 1100. Economic Growth allies very closely with the world energy consumption.

Sustainable Development aims to make it possible for many people to live as well as possible for as long as possible.

Everything starts to exponentially grow in the 1950s as do the differences between people and parts of the world.

Potential challenges and solutions are often incompatible, unpopular or contradictory, i.e. Redistribution is unpopular and often just amongst those who have already.

Three development models are introduced in the 1970s, Northern Industrial Model, Stationary Economy, New International Economic Order, many of these visit concepts we are discussing now.

Many have agreed that Sustainable Development is what should be undertaken, but few actually do it. A model for Sustainable Development was proposed in 1979 from the OECD, The declaration of Anticipatory Environmental policies. Again, this was proposed in 1984 (The OECD International Conference on Environment and Economics). There was also The World Conservation strategy issued in 1980 by the IUCN and the Brundtland commission that had eight open meetings looking more at poverty. These meetings looked at some complex and important issues but the final results were someway downplayed and sanitised in order to ensure that people would actually read the report. It was even rejected by some NGOs, Environmentalists and Third World nations, but they tended to focus on particular aspects. It did lead to the Rio conference in 1992, Agenda 21 and in some ways, the Millennium development goals and the People's Health Charter.