On the value of economic growth

Politics, Philosophy and Economics 19 (2):128-153 (2020)
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Must a society aim indefinitely for continued economic growth? Proponents of economic growth advance three central challenges to the idea that a society, having attained high levels of income and wealth, may justly cease to pursue further economic growth: if environmentally sustainable and the gains fairly distributed, first, continued economic growth could make everyone within a society and globally, and especially the worst off, progressively better off; second, the pursuit of economic growth spurs ongoing innovation, which enhances people’s opportunities and protects a society against future risks; and third, continued economic growth fosters attitudes of openness, tolerance, and generosity, which are essential to the functioning of a liberal democratic society. This article grants these challenges’ normative foundations, to show that, even if one accepts their underlying premises as requirements of justice, a society may still justly cease to aim for economic growth, so long as it continues to aim for and realize gains on other dimensions. I argue that, while continued economic growth might instrumentally serve valuable ends, it is not necessary for their realization, as a society can achieve these ends through other means.



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Julie L. Rose
Dartmouth College

References found in this work

A Theory of Justice: Revised Edition.John Rawls - 1999 - Harvard University Press.
Justice as fairness: a restatement.John Rawls (ed.) - 2001 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.
The law of peoples.John Rawls - 1999 - Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. Edited by John Rawls.
Famine, Affluence, and Morality.Peter Singer - 1972 - Oxford University Press USA.

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