Headline: A Heady Cocktail for Growth that Lacks Tonic

Wider den Wachstumswunschpunsch: ein Einwurf von Philipp H. Lepenies
Wider den Wachstumswunschpunsch: ein Einwurf von Philipp H. Lepenies

Growth, too, isn’t what it used to be. Nowadays, it has to be ‘qualitative’, ‘pro-poor’, ‘inclusive’, ‘sustainable’, ‘green’, or even ‘smart’. And if one attribute doesn’t suffice, a mix of all of them will do: “smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” (EU Commission), “sustained, inclusive and sustainable growth” (UN) or “inclusive, pro-poor, green growth” (World Bank). This wonder-working growth cocktail, which is supposed to cure all of the twenty-first century’s ills, is nothing more than hot air. It is not at all clear what the parameters for qualitative growth actually refer to: to the growth process itself or to the use of the income generated by growth. Show me the country that would forgo growth just because it doesn’t fulfill certain qualitative norms? Or accept a downturn in growth in order to be ‘pro-poor’? But the real problem is that there is no such thing as qualitative growth. What growth is is clearly defined in an international convention. Growth is the rate of increase of GDP, nothing more and nothing less. The term does not need to be qualified. For over half a century growth – unqualified growth – has been the goal of almost all governments. One doesn’t have to oppose growth altogether, but one shouldn’t pretend that growth can do something it can’t. So let’s leave growth to its own devices and concern ourselves with the things that the ‘qualitative growth’ cocktail is ostensibly aiming for, things that don’t necessarily require a shot of growth: the fight against poverty, inclusion, sustainability, etc.

Photo: istock/Wicki58

This blog post was first published on the website of the Denkwerkstatt Zukunft.

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