“The problems with economic growth” – a seminar by Prof Nigel Curry

The School of Geography’s final guest seminar of the term took place on 7th December 2017, with Visiting Professor, Nigel Curry.

A summary of Prof Curry’s talk on, “The problems with economic growth” can be read below.

Prof Nigel Curry

In this lecture, Professor Curry sought to challenge the dominance of economic growth as the cornerstone of development polices throughout the world.  Many benefits are claimed for such growth, but it can be shown that growth is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for the achievement of these benefits. Economic growth, rather, can be seen to increase inequalities in both income and wealth, reduce collective marginal utilities (which some economists now call ‘happiness’) and have devastating consequences for the environment. To highlight this, he presented data showing that the world’s richest 8 people control the same wealth as the poorest half of the world’s population. He also showed data that questions the assumptions that growth leads to lower employment, lower government borrowing or improved public services.

As an alternative, he presented the case of the “universal basic income” as a mechanism for poverty alleviation, premised on the need to re-evaluate the meaning of “employment” and “unemployment” in an era where technological advances are taking away a lot of traditional working class jobs.   It a typically controversial conclusion, Prof. Curry argued that much of the preoccupation with growth can be seen to serve the ends of political power rather than human welfare.

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