Many economists claim that economic growth is not sustainable. They claim that in the long run, the resources we use today to produce economic growth run out and our economy crashes. And indeed this does happen, but most economic thinkers disagree. For them the fact that economic growth is not sustainable is a problem from the past and one that we should address rather than ignore completely.
Consider a situation where, over time, the rate of economic growth is no longer growing. What will happen? Well, it will become possible for some people to live better lives than others. But what about future generations? Will they be better off than those of us alive in our current era?
To understand this, it helps to imagine what would occur if economic growth was no longer sustainable. Let us say that in the future, there is a major crash, caused by a major disaster or economic catastrophe. In fact, there may be several major disasters. But if economic growth is no longer growing, the resources that were used today to produce more economic growth, namely, labor and materials, will eventually run out. And the result might be economic ruin for those people.
If the crisis were to continue, there would be mass poverty. Eventually, starvation will result. And those who survive, will have to fight for basic survival. So the question is, if the current rate of economic growth is no longer sustainable, what can be done to reverse it? What can make things better now, so that in ten or twenty years from now, when economic conditions reverse, there will be a greater need for more human resources, so that there will be a real recovery from the recession?
Some say that the only way to ensure economic growth is not sustainable, is to de-emphasize growth altogether. By doing so, it is hoped, people will not feel compelled to create more value, because it means more money in their pockets. There is also the argument that economic growth is a positive thing, because it has increased overall wealth for society. Ultimately, it is hoped, as with all economic activity, that money generated through economic growth will benefit everyone. And if no one is benefited, then the entire concept of economic growth is nothing more than a fallacy.
Still, others believe that the question of whether economic growth is sustainable is a question of values, rather than reality. If people truly believe that economic growth is not sustainable, then perhaps they should just create more economic units at the local level. By doing so, individuals would be making a conscious effort to reduce . . . . . . the ecological footprint that they are producing. Perhaps, instead of attempting to convince other people that economic growth is not sustainable, it would be far better to convince them that economic growth is a sustainable phenomenon, provided it is done ethically and sustainably. Only then will there really be an end result that is truly sustainable, instead of one that is based on fantasy.