Several studies have backed this statement with evidence that countries which present a more equal land distribution are more likely to support economic growth and register less negative effects, like in the picture below:
Source: Deininger K., Squire, L., 1997, Economic Growth and Income Inequality, Finance and Management
But these statements on income inequality have been counter-argued with evidence that inequality was only widened for a short period as it "tended to increase in a first stage and then to decrease at a later stage of development" (Kuznets, 1955).
Economic growth is possible through the exploitation of natural resources, but on the long-term, this diminishes the resources, harms the environment and consequently negatively impacts the population. "At its simplest it can hold that there are physical limits as the Earth risks running out of natural resources. Alternatively the limits can be projected further into the future - for example, economic development threatens to raise global temperatures and destabilise the climate" (Ben-Ami, 2006). A most relevant example in this sense is given by the continually decreasing resources of natural petroleum, already found only in certain regions of the globe. Not only has the reduction of these resources affected the population, but has affected the international economy as a whole and has increased the political power of the exporting countries and the dependency of the importing countries. For the population, these changes have materialized in higher prices not only for gas, but also in chain price increases for all products and commodities.
Then, another side effect of economic growth is once again linked to the preservation of the natural environment. From this perspective, economic growth uses more technologies and more machinery, which eliminates more waste and increases the levels of pollution. "Economic growth results in an immediate increase in emissions" (Bruyn, 2000), which consequently damage the health of the surrounding environment. But the advocates of economic growth might argue that the specialized engineers are increasing their efforts to come up with newer and better technologies, which are more environment friendly. A positive example in this sense is given by the Japanese car manufacturers, which are currently producing small size vehicles, with fuel-efficient engines incorporated. But the overall focus on environment protection has decreased significantly and it was replaced with an increased emphasis on economic growth, as revealed by the chart below:
Source: Carlson, D.K., 2008, Public Priorities: Environment vs. Economic Growth, Gallup
But economic growth affects the population from yet another perspective - that of social structures. To better explain, economic growth and development is generally achieved through intense industrialization, which occurs within large cities. This widens the gap between the wealth of the citizens and the peasants and generates a migration form the rural to the urban areas, decreasing as such the interest and capabilities in the agricultural sector. "Economic growth favours urban workers over rural workers that the latter tend to migrate to the cities and the size of the agricultural population declines" (Bourguignon, 2003).
The population is negatively affected by economic growth in the meaning that they are placed under increased pressure and stress. To better explain, in order to keep up with the advancements made, the population has to readjust and this generally means they will have to put in extra hours. "In the beginning of the industrial revolution, higher growth led to people working lower hours. However, in the past couple of decades higher incomes have actually led to people working longer hours. It seems people are unable to enjoy their higher incomes. Feeling the necessity or preferring to work longer hours. This suggests people are valuing earning money more than leisure. However, this trend may also be due to companies wanting people to work longer hours" (Pettinger, 2007).
Other significant implications of economic growth upon the population revolve around the diseases generated by superior life standards, such as obesity. Then, unlike other sources, Pettinger states that the crime rates have actually increased, simply because there are more things to steal (Pettinger, 2007).
The matter of economic growth is far from being exhaustive and making a clear decision on whether to agree or disagree with the statement that economic growth will damage the long-term interest of the population becomes even harder to make. Therefore, I will say that while I do not totally agree with the statement, I neither entirely disagree with it. In other words, I partially agree with the statement due to the negative long-term effects of economic growth, such as the income inequality and the relative poverty, but more importantly because of the negative effects it has upon the natural environment.
On the other hand, I partially disagree with the statement for I consider economic growth to have numerous advantages for the population. Our lives have significantly changed for the better as compared to the lives of our ancestors. And proof of the advantages offered by economic growth stands the fact that all technological, legal, education and political advancement occur during times of economic prosperity, rather than stagnation or recession (Friedman, 2005).
All in all, I believe the matter to be a personal one and the decision to depend on the unique characteristics of each responded. For instance, it is only natural for an environmentalist to speak against economic growth in the detriment of environment protection. Then again, it is only natural for a manager or shareholder to desire growth as to ensure future financial resources.
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Brenner, R., 1998, the Causes of Economic Growth, Policy Report, Volume 20, Number 3
Bruyn, S.M., 2000, Economic Growth and the Environment: An Empirical Analysis, Kluwer Academic Publishers
Carlson, D.K., 2008, Public Priorities: Environment vs. Economic Growth, Gallup, http://www.gallup.com/poll/15820/Public-Priorities-Environment-vs.-Economic-Growth.aspx, last accessed on March 11, 2008
Deininger K., Squire, L., 1997, Economic Growth and Income Inequality, Finance and Management
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Kuznets, S., 1955, Economic Growth and Income Inequality, American Economic Review, Volume 45, Number 1
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