Economic growth is supposed to deliver prosperity. Higher incomes should mean better choices, richer lives, an improved quality of life for us all. That at least is the conventional wisdom. But things haven’t always turned out that way. Growth has delivered its benefits, at best, unequally. Far from raising the living standard for those who most needed it, growth let much of the world’s population down. Wealth trickled up to the lucky few.
These are some of the questions that prompted this report. They belong in a long tradition of serious reflection on the nature of progress. But they also reflect real and immediate concerns. Climate change, fuel security, collapsing biodiversity and global inequality have moved inexorably to the forefront of the international policy agenda over the last decade. These are issues that can no longer be relegated to the next generation or the next electoral cycle. They demand attention now.
Above all, there is an urgent need to develop a resilient and sustainable macro-economy that is no longer predicated on relentless consumption growth. The clearest message from the financial crisis of 2008 is that our current model of economic success is fundamentally flawed. For the advanced economies of the Western world, prosperity without growth is no longer a utopian dream. It is a financial and ecological necessity.