Free marketeers equivocate on growth

In: Uncategorized

12 Jun 2008

Martin Wolf, the chief economics commentator of the Financial Times, argued in a feature in yesterday’s paper that sustaining economic growth is the century’s big challenge.

The article, which was partly a review of the new book by Jeffrey Sachs and partly a discussion of the recent growth commission report, started by asking:

“Is it possible for the vast mass of humanity to enjoy the living standards of today’s high-income countries? This is, arguably, the biggest question confronting humanity in the 21st century. It is today’s version of the doubts expressed by Thomas Malthus, two centuries ago, about the possibility of enduring rises in living standards. On the answer depends the destiny of our progeny. It will determine whether this will be a world of hope rather than despair and of peace rather than conflict.”

As a free marketeer Wolf says that his inclination is to argue that problems raised by economic development can be resolved. But later on he admits to developing some sympathy with environmentalism:

“it has become evident, at least to me, that the human impact on the planet on which we depend has risen to enormous proportions. We have treated the global commons as if they were free. Self-evidently, they are not.”

Evidently free marketeers cannot be relied upon to give an unequivocal defence of economic growth.

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