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New York Times Room for Debate

 

Only Growth Can Sustain Us

January 17, 2013

By Diana Furchtgott-Roth

Economic growth raises standards of living for rich and poor countries alike. The more growth, the better.

In developing countries, higher G.D.P. growth results in lower infant mortality, running water, sewer systems, electricity, better schools and education for children, as can be seen from comparative World Bank data. As electric power plants replace wood stoves, the air is cleared of smog. As girls receive more education, birth rates naturally decline as women choose to make use of their human capital by entering the labor force.

In developed countries, economic growth gives us the tax revenue for cleaner air and water, for missile defense, for health and education programs. Stringent Environmental Protection Agency regulations do not come cheap. Republicans and Democrats both have extensive wish lists for favorite government programs, and the only way to pay for these is from the tax revenue from economic growth.

Here in America, we have all the food we can eat, and more clothes than we can fit in our closets. At the same time, we’re seeing deteriorating family structures that reduce educational performance. About three-quarters of poor families with children are headed by a single parent. Poor children may have cellphones, but they need competitive schools (like KIPP) to make sure they do not fall behind.

Our parents and grandparents are requiring more support as their life expectancies increase. People who live into their 80s and 90s need not just more medical services, but more technology and health aides to be comfortable at home. This also takes economic growth.

Henry Thoreau may be right that we can find God in nature. But it takes economic growth to keep nature pristine and all of us healthy enough to enjoy it.

Original Source: http://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2013/01/16/when-growth-is-not-a-good-goal/only-growth-can-sustain-us

 

 
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