As of now, the demarcation between developed and developing countries is based on economic indicators such as gross domestic product and per capita income, not on the number of university graduates or IT engineers or English-speaking people.
As you rightly said, we should consider economic growth, but I think we should also consider the implications of growth in education and knowledge, spiritual growth, growth in top-level sporting teams, and so on.
Growth is life. Without growth there is no life—be it of an economy, entity, or an individual. The opposite of growth is contraction or slowdown. While both growth and slowdowns are natural, growth has a tendency to bounce back at a higher rate since it offers opportunities and opens up the frontiers of capabilities. Despite its excesses, its benefit to mankind is enormous. A slowdown and its consequences are more painful than those of growth. Expecting rationality in growth just limits the prospects of growth. There are no boundaries to growth.
According to the World Health Organization, one of the risk factors for violence of all sorts is povertyŚnot absolute poverty, but inequality between the classes. If growth brings more economic equality into a society, then yes, growth is good. Businesses and government need to encourage growth not only in the aggregate measure of GDP, but at every level of society.
"Is growth good?" is a question that everybody would answer in the affirmative. As rightly said by the author, it fosters more positive thinking and sharing and democratization of process. While this appears to happen fairly well in most societies, there are pockets in societies where growth does not work at the grassroots level to bring in an overall sense of well-being and distributed social justice.
Given the current globalization and liberalization initiatives set in motion, it is hoped that the future of growth in most of society would be equitable.
As presented in Jim Heskett's article, Friedman's theory displays some shortsightedness. Can we really call genuine morality that which only stands up in good times? Real morality is that which enables me to do the right thing even if I am hungry; the rest is convenience or expedience. . . . All over the world the most affluent are often the most immoral. . . . Morality is not a function of a standard of living but of core values, and core values are neither tested nor often obvious when things are going well.
The key is not more outward growth (which, as was pointed out in the article, has its limits), but more inward renewal (which has no limits).
When growth stops, decay begins; there is no such thing as the status quo. Growth does not have to be defined as "more." It can be defined as "better."
Granted, the ethics of growth can be two-sided, but growth should not be confused with greed. Agriculture, healthcare, and education (education is a business) are areas of potential growth that can be positive if not tainted by greed.
The refineries are another good example. There have been no new refineries built in the past thirty years in the United States, so: zero growth. One hurricane devastates the country's refining capacity and the price of gas impacts the cost of living. The average worker suffers due to the increased cost of commuting.
Growth is good; greed is bad.
Is growth good? What kind and for how long?
First we must ask what business we are in. Based on the business we are in, I can identify the kind of growth that is good for us as a company. And we are not in the business of growth just for growth's sake.
In more specific terms for my company, growth means more sales for more profit, provided we can keep delivering trust and accuracy to our clients, which is what they are really buying from us.
Now to relate to Friedman's point about growth being "a rising standard of living" for a lot of people, democratization, moral societies, and a fair distribution of growth benefits. I think that this rising standard of living for a clear majority of citizens is based on well-paying jobs, on equal opportunity employers, on a good education system, and on a fair legal system, and if economic progress needs to be broadly based to foster social and political progress, then our way of life should favor the development and growth of well-managed, profitable businesses as a solid foundation for a sound employment industry based on fairness and opportunities for all.
This is why I believe the definition of growth that benefits a lot of people in a society is linked to the definition of growth at the company level. Indeed, good management does contribute to this rising standard of living for a clear majority of citizens.
What about resources? I don't think we create resources. The best we can do as human beings is to manage them properly in order to make the most of what is there.
What about companies or countries competing for resources in order to meet their respective definition of growth and in some cases of a rising standard of living? These definitions may vary from country to country; however, no matter what these definitions might be, competition for resources across borders has to do with how free the international trade is. Will globalization contribute to fair international trade, to growth for all? Possibly.