I see a lot of social media chatter about GDP being the wrong measure of progress. It’s one thing to say we need better measures of economic activity and outcomes but increasingly I get the sense that people don’t like economic growth itself as a measure of progress. A former federal Cabinet minister tweeted something similar recently.
This isn’t just semantics. If you are opposed to a growing economy and you want a vastly expanded public sector and safety net you have to face a simple calculus. The post WW2 model in the West was mostly predicated on the notion that a rapidly expanding economy would allow for far greater taxation and the funding of broad-based public services and the social safety net.
If you reject economic growth but want all the public goodies – how will we pay for it? We could allocate even more of a stagnant or shrinking economy to the public sector but is that sustainable? You get to full on socialism and we have many, many examples in the 20th century that prove this ends up with a levelling down on quality of life and not a levelling up.
For me you can look for other measures and tools to show economic growth and progress but when I read Richard Saillant talking about the vast commitments we will need to make to fund health care and other public services in the future – I see solid economic growth as a fundamental principle. Maybe we reach a point in the future where we can sustainably fund public services without massive increases in tax revenue but I don’t think that time is coming in the next 20 years. .