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.
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.