Our of the four questions I have asked so far on the main site, three have received downvotes (5 in total). Those are:

My aim behind those questions is to understand what seems to be an obsession with growth; economic growth percentages are frequently scrutinised, compared, and can end political careers. I've never understood this; hence those questions. Considering the perceived political importance of economic growth, I think it is relevant that this is understood not only by economic researchers, but also by lay people like myself.

In total, those three questions received 5 downvotes and 7 upvotes. So, they are of controversial quality at best. What is wrong with them, and how can I improve my questions?

  • 2
    $\begingroup$ My personal opinion: You seem to be asking advanced questions, to which you lack the basic knowledge required to fully digest the answers. This makes your questions less specific/precise as those from someone who knows the basics - and also less sensible. $\endgroup$
    – FooBar
    Commented Dec 5, 2014 at 16:51
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    $\begingroup$ Dr. Gerritt is from a complex, scientific, and highly numerate field, and is in fact asking deep and quite relevant questions. They deserve to be treated with far more respect than this. It might be useful to contemplate why such deceptively 'basic' questions as this don't have simple straightforward answers in economics. $\endgroup$
    – Lumi
    Commented Dec 7, 2014 at 23:28
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    $\begingroup$ I don't know much about economic science. The answers, bot to the question and here, are quite informative. I consider that the economic growth "necessity" I'm thinking off is likely more political than economical. That, and I don't know the economic terminology. $\endgroup$
    – gerrit
    Commented Dec 9, 2014 at 5:10
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    $\begingroup$ @gerrit, the high public profile of economics means that an economics site is at risk of being overwhelmed by non-experts asking questions derived from a particular ideology. Emphasizing limits to growth, expressing doubts about the desirability of growth, and criticizing the mainstream's supposed obsession with growth happen to be well-known tropes of one particular ideology. That doesn't make it impossible to ask a good question along these lines, but it has to be very well-crafted to be useful. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 1:43
  • $\begingroup$ @gerrit, possible good questions from this angle: someone worried about the environmental implications of growth might ask about the scope for a possible fall in the carbon intensity of GDP (ideally providing some cross-sectional or time series data to start). Or someone wondering about the connection between growth and other measures of welfare could ask a specific question about the empirical relationship between GDP growth and measure X. $\endgroup$ Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 1:47

1 Answer 1


To understand "what seems an obsession with growth", you should not look into an Economics Q&A site, like this one. Invoking my answer to one of your questions, if the historical experience was one of simple societal reproduction (to recall the Marxian term), take my word for it, the Economics discipline woild have been built around concepts and models of a steady-state economy.

Here is a possible answer to the issue about obsession with growth:

"For most of its history, humanity fought hard to barely biologically survive. Once the industrial revolution happened and the human race gained control over unprecedented amounts of energy to transform the natural environment according to its needs and wants, "going back" seemed as a no-option. Growth has been perceived and experienced as the best shield against extinction, as in "the best defense is offense". Nevertheless, the benefits from unabated growth may have an inverted-U shape, reaching a peak and then declining towards zero and negative net benefit, and this is something that humanity has to face and deal with, as a real possibility. But there is also another aspect for the growth-cult: the observed wealth and income inequality, makes growth an "escape forward", a way to maintain some social balance and peace: for the poor and disgruntled (irrespective of how one judges the matter), a growing economy offers in principle the opportunity to ameliorate their position -which eases the conflict, even if inequality continues."

The above does have some elements of Political Economy analysis, but it is not really based on the Economics scientific discipline, as this Q&A site mostly understands it and tries to occupy itself with it.


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