A small but thoughtful set of responses to the question "Is Growth Good?" posed this month conveys the sense that the wrong questions were asked. According to the responses, growth is not only good—it is necessary. But we need to be selective in the kinds of growth targeted. In fact, many kinds of growth offer great returns while requiring little or none of the world's resources, therefore having seemingly few limits.
Fran Henry makes the case for economic growth when she says, "According to the World Health Organization, one of the risk factors for violence of all sorts is poverty—not absolute poverty, but inequality between the classes. If growth brings more economic equality into a society, then yes, growth is good." Pruthul Patel writes, "Growth is life. Without growth there is no life—be it of an economy, entity, or individual. . . . Expecting rationality in growth just limits the prospects of growth. There are no boundaries to growth."
Others suggest that certain kinds of growth are particularly important. M. Ramji comments, ". . . we should also consider the implications of growth in education and knowledge, spiritual growth, growth in top-level sporting teams, and so on." Angelo Giovas goes even further in suggesting that "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)." Charlie Cullinane recognizes an important distinction: "Granted, the ethics of growth can be two-sided, but growth should not be confused with greed. Agriculture, healthcare, and education . . . are areas of potential growth that can be positive if not tainted by greed."
All of this suggests that other kinds of growth actually enable the kind of economic growth that we generally measure and read about. It's reasonably obvious, for example, that growth in such things as the rule of law, so-called transparency, and ethical behavior foster trust in business that is essential to a growing economy. Growth in a chain of enablers, such as education, has the potential for leading directly to the development of ideas that actually expand the limits of even those kinds of growth that rely on physical resources with supposedly finite properties. If all this is true, why is so much more emphasis placed on measuring, reporting, and rewarding end and effect—economic growth—than the means and causes of economic growth? Is there too long a lag time between the two to interest managers (and in some cases even policymakers)? Is there too great a physical and psychological gap between those investing in the kinds of growth that eventually drive economic growth and those benefiting from the investment? If so, what does that portend for the real versus the ideal future described by our respondents? What do you think?