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What Are the Pros and Cons of Fast Economic Growth?

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  • Written By: John Lister
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 21 November 2016
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Fast economic growth means a rapid expansion in the total amount of goods and services that can be produced by an economy, whether of a particular country or the world as a whole. Its main benefits include increased living standards and the ability to cope with population increases. The main criticisms are that it may be environmentally unsustainable and that it may not reduce inequalities.

Definitions of fast economic growth can vary. Growth is usually measured by output, namely the total value of goods and services produced by an economy. Strictly speaking, though, economists usually define growth as changes in the capacity for output, even if actual output is lower. Because of this, economic growth tends to be viewed as a long-term change rather than simply the year-on-year variations up and down.

The main argument for fast economic growth is simply that the economy can produce more, which should in turn mean the population as a whole has a higher living standard. Increased output of particular goods also tends to mean lower production costs per unit, which makes goods more affordable. In the case of individuals this tends to have diminishing returns. As poorer people gain access to affordable goods and services, the benefit is dramatic. The benefits become less dramatic as people become richer, and some surveys suggest there comes a point when increased access to goods or services does little to improve a person's well-being.

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Another major benefit of fast economic growth is that it can help cope with rapidly expanding populations. If economic growth does not at least keep pace with population increases, the individual benefits will be restricted. There is an argument that economic and population growth can be linked: access to better quality food, health care and labor-saving devices can increase the chances of people being healthy enough to live longer and bring up children.

One of the major arguments against fast growth of the economy is its sustainability. Some economists and other critics believe there is an inherent environmental limit on growth when natural resources become limited, for example if industry uses too much oil. Some forms of this argument even suggest that eventually the damage caused to these resources can itself become a limit on growth.

Perhaps the biggest point of contention regarding economic growth is its effects on inequality. Supporters of fast economic growth believe it helps poorer people by making goods and services more available at an increasingly affordable price. Critics believe that unrestricted growth may widen inequalities, which could cause social unrest.

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healthy4life
Post 4

I am concerned about natural resources like oil running out when the demand goes up. The environment often suffers abuse at the hands of greedy companies. If they find a way to grow, they don't seem to care how it affects the environment.

Oceana
Post 3

@lighth0se33 – I know what you mean. Economic growth often brings new jobs to an area, and this benefits everyone.

I know so many unemployed people who would love to see economic growth right now in my town. We seem to be slowly going downhill.

If we could get a major factory interested in opening up here, then so many people could get jobs. If a manufacturer finds a way to make products more widely available at a cheaper price, then the business can afford to open up new locations and provide employment.

shell4life
Post 2

I kind of get what the writer is saying here about the limit on what good economic growth can do for poor people. True, it drives down cost, which makes things that poor people previously couldn't afford suddenly attainable.

However, once the poor are able to buy everything that the middle class has, they are no longer considered poor. Fast economic growth has, in a sense, made them richer.

It might bother some people in a higher class to suddenly be no different from people who used to be poorer than they were. I think this is silly, but it is how some people feel. They need to feel that they are doing better than others, and fast economic growth can take that away from them.

lighth0se33
Post 1

I still think that economic growth overall is desirable. If you live in a country that goes through years or even decades of being stagnant or declining economically, you do rejoice when the economy picks up.

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