Have the limits to economic growth really been reached?

Article Highlights

  • Each time economies stumble, some economists discuss why the limits of economic growth might have been reached.

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  • Yet each time, events seem to have proved these pessimists wrong.

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  • Recently, there have been a number of major technological breakthroughs that could be of a transformative nature.

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  • It would seem to be presumptuous to dismiss such breakthroughs as holding little prospect for drastically improving our living standards.

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Dennis Robertson, the renowned Cambridge economist and a contemporary of John Maynard Keynes, famously remarked that economic fashion was like going to the greyhound races. If one stood still long enough, the dogs would come around one more time. This certainly seems to be the case with fashions in economic pessimism about the long-term economic growth prospects of the world’s advanced industrial economies.

Each time these economies stumble, there is no shortage of economists who come out of the woodwork to advance plausible reasons as to why the limits of economic growth might have been reached. Yet each time, events seem to have proved these pessimists wrong — it has turned out that they consistently have tended to underestimate the ability of the human mind to come up with new ideas that might underpin renewed long-term economic growth.

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