"People who care about human well-being, and who care about the poor, should promote growth."
In their new book, Economic Growth: Unleashing the Potential of Human Flourishing, Stephen L. S. Smith and Bruce G. Webb (Gordon College) and Edd Noell (Westmont College) explore the benefits of economic growth and address common concerns. As the book was released in mid-April, Smith and Noell's column tackling the topic in short form appeared in the Capital Flows feature of Forbes.com.
"We had wanted to write on this topic for a long time," the authors stated, in an online Q & A . "In our work and lives we have seen vivid evidence of growth’s benefits, and yet there’s often a sense of guilt about it in society at large—at least in the rich West. A sense that growth is somehow greedy, morally problematic, a thing that we rely on but probably shouldn’t—as if it is a kind of dirty secret."
All three authors bring personal history to the project. Smith grew up in Hong Kong, and saw rapid economic growth and its benefits first hand. Webb's research interests include environmental economics and Christian thinking about economics, and he brings those to bear in assessing some environmental activists' critiques of economic growth. Noell's academic visits to Russia, China and Germany spurred his curiosity about the different growth performances of each economy.
The book is part of the American Enterprise Institute's Values and Capitalism series, which aims to get short, thoughtful, accessible discussions of important topics into students' hands. Smith, Webb and Noell's volume appears alongside books by Arthur Brooks, Christina Hoff Sommers, Charles Murray, and others. It presents empirical evidence from the past two centuries showing the relationship between growth and human well-being, greater global income equality, and environmental improvements and sustainability. The authors make the case that economic growth is key to lifting societies out of dire poverty, and holds the promise of sustaining those gains.
"With greater growth we could invest even more in basic research to help find cures for diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Greater growth would allow us to avert the coming intergenerational fight over how to pay for trillions of dollars of entitlement promises we have made to the needy among us, and to our parents and grandparents in the form of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. These are profoundly moral concerns."