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February 2008

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Frank Neary


this is a fine didactic blog, if I may say so.

On the topic of economic growth, have you a view on the idea that pursuit of economic growth as an end is accelerating global overpopulation; increasing the actual quantum of human misery; resulting in unquantifiable future risks and real environmental degradation.

If Malthus were theorising today, what might he be saying?


Didactic eh? Well just so long as it's not sententious...

On your question, I'm critical of the view that growth is always good. We need to look at alternative economic indicators. I wouldn't describe myself as a card-carrying neo-Malthusian but I would be concerned with overpopulation. I have no time for the deep green, anti growth position. I'm an optimist in that I believe that better public policy in terms of regulating the market, especially at international level, will lead to a more sustainable type of growth. Good governance generally is the key to progress.

Frank Neary


sententious is a word I like but a quality that grates, and I don't believe it applies to you. However, the Freeman column in the Irish Independent Business Section on Thursday's is one feast of sententiousness I do enjoy, because it also contains a lot of very useful thoughts. I wonder would the Indo license Freeman's sentences for use on desk calendars, mugs or t-shirts.

I agree about good governance and regulated markets, though the issue of effective controls from above on sovereign governments arises. Will Hutton and Anthony Giddens put together a book a few years ago, called 'On The Edge', which discussed some of these things. A key point was that we are seeing not so much 'globalisation' as 'American globalisation'. I'm not sure that there's a difference, though lefties might choose the term 'American economic imperialism'.

One angle on growth and population is the apparent fact that affluence brings societies to a point where individuals reduce or abandon the reproductive urge. Coinciding with this is large-scale migration from poorer regions to fill the void, leaving behind a skewed and dependent demographic. At the same time, entrenched welfare and housing systems in the developed countries can also be 'supporting' an anomalous non-working sector of the population, as well as attracting migrants, some with spurious 'refugee' stories.

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