Growing into growth

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

Growing into growth notes that people are notoriously bad at judging what compounding can do:

The fact that we systematically underestimate even the medium-term effect of compounding growth I think severely hobbles our moral judgment about the importance of economic growth relative to other social desiderata. I used to puzzle a great deal over the fact that moral philosophers (as opposed to economists, who are the vanguard) have devoted so little attention to economic growth given the immense, swift improvements in well-being that high rates of growth have delivered wherever they have occurred. The now-well-documented historical record suggests that economic growth has done more for the welfare of humanity than any moral creed or non-economic initiative meant to improve the dignity and quality of human life. So why is there no treatise required of all undergraduates singing growth’s praises and setting it out as a moral imperative for all decent peoples?

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