The Morality of Growth

The Morality of Growth

The economic turmoil of recent years has seen a renewed focus on Britain’s failure to grow. A new essay by CPS Director Robert Colvile sets out how this is a much longer-term problem than we think – that the growth ceiling of the British economy has been getting lower and lower for decades, driven in part by a failure by politicians and CEOs to defend the need for it.

‘The Morality of Growth’ argues that the growing belief in parts of the left that capitalism and its obsession with growth are a cancer on the planet, while not readily adopted by mainstream voices, is seeping into political and business spheres. The result is a culture in which our leaders pay lip service to growth but are not willing to do what it takes to deliver. He argues that we should prioritise growth as something that is not just economically necessary but morally virtuous.

In the paper Colvile writes that the ‘degrowth’ movement is ‘the ultimate example of white privilege’, with those who have mostly never known anything but extraordinary comforts of our modern world telling billions across the world that their ambitions for a better life don’t actually matter. He goes on to say that a society without growth is ‘politically far more fragile’, especially as younger people who lose hope of benefiting from the compounding prosperity experienced by their parents and grandparents.

Robert Colvile, CPS Director and author of the essay, said:

‘Malnutrition, poverty, infant mortality, and all other indices of deprivation have plummeted in recent decades as a direct result of economic growth. It is an overwhelming good. But in Britain, GDP growth per capita has fallen in every decade since the 1980s. Indeed, it is precisely because there has not been as much cake to go round that we fixate on the size of the portions.

‘Politicians from both left and right agree that growth is vital. But in all too many areas, the priority is not making people’s lives better, but a performative demonstration that you are on the side of righteousness. If we want to solve Britain’s problems, both MPs and business leaders need to treat growth as a moral good in and of itself – and do a far better job of explaining to people why it matters.’

Robert Colvile - Friday, 13th January, 2023