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Will economic growth always rely on population growth?


Marketplace listener Kelly MacLellan wrote in with this question:

I’m curious if there are any alternative models that don’t rely on indefinite population growth for economic growth. Recently, the news of falling birth rates has been framed as a “crisis,” but some theories related to population and the climate suggest we can continue growth without indefinitely more people … I think. I’d love to hear one of your experts offer some perspectives that might mean we can thrive without ongoing population growth.

The projected COVID-19 “baby bust” could result in 300,000 to 500,000 fewer births in the United States this year. And while that might be a blip due to the pandemic, the world population is expected to virtually stop growing by the end of this century, according to Pew Research. So can we keep growing the economy without growing the population?

First, economic growth is a sought after goal because it leads to an increase in the standard of living. Mira Farka, an associate professor of economics at California State University, Fullerton, said the difference between 2% annual GDP growth and 3% annual GDP growth by 2050 is a difference of a reduction in the increase of standard of living by one-third. It wouldn’t be catastrophic; it just means standard of living doesn’t increase as much as it could. Think of the improvements in living people got from the internet, created for public use 30 years ago. “I just want people to think about whether they’re willing to give up all of this advancement that we’ve had over the last 30 years,” Farka said.

So economic growth is about more than economic gain.

“As a general idea, it’s perfectly possible for an economy to have a stable population” and continue growing, said Lawrence White, a professor of economics at the New York University Stern School of Business. “You can have a stable population with [economic] growth by saving and devoting the savings to productive equipment, productive people and productive ideas.”

Basically, capital and investment are the main ingredients in economic growth, said Charles Engel, a professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

But capital and investment can only take you so far. Simeon Alder, a visiting assistant professor of economics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said exponential economic growth requires exponential new ideas, as new ideas are the fundamental engine of growth. (Think about the economic growth and improvement in standards of living that occurred during and since the Industrial Revolution.)

“The challenge with that is the more ideas you already have, the more new ideas you need to create in order to sustain that growth rate,” he said. “To get these extra ideas, you just need more and more people as sort of a general result.”

Adler said there are two theories that explain how new ideas come about. The first is the “fishing out the pond” effect. Imagine a fishing expedition in a pond. At first, he explained, there are plentiful fish and they’re easy to catch. “But as you develop more and more knowledge, it gets harder and harder to catch yet another idea,” he said.

There is a countervailing force, called the “standing on the shoulders of giants” effect,” Adler said. This is where past advancements make future advancements possible.

“Going from the Stone Age to traveling to Mars — that’s a huge step. But if you figure out some early ideas, you figure out how to travel to the moon, then actually going to Mars is not such a crazy next step anymore,” Adler said.

If the “standing on the shoulders of giants” effect is strong enough, he said, there are models where economic growth does not rely on population growth. Adler said economists actually tried to figure out which effect is stronger in the real world, and while both are present, it seems we’re living more in a “fishing out the pond” world.

“It gets harder and harder to find new ideas, and you need more researchers and more bright minds to come up with new ideas that can fuel economic growth,” Adler said. “And in that kind of world, it does turn out that economic growth in the long run does actually require population growth.”

Wes Peterson, a professor of agricultural economics at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, gives the example of GDP growth in the U.S. and in France. He said if you look at the two countries over the last 30 or 40 years, “the only reason that economic growth has been higher in the United States is because we have higher population growth than France does.”

So it seems that at this point, no, we cannot yet have sustainable economic growth without population growth.

Farka is more concerned about how a negative population growth rate could affect economic growth. For example, Japan has had a decline in the birth rate, had an increase in life expectancy and maintains pretty strict immigration policies. (Immigration is an important supplement to an economy with low birth rates.) This has led to a slowing growth in the country and is expected to seriously hinder future economic growth.

A decrease in population along with an increase in life expectancy means the proportion of people working decreases. A larger elderly population puts more strain on the economy because of the way most countries’ retirement systems are set up, White at NYU Stern said. For example, in the U.S., Social Security is a “pay as you go” system. Effectively, the current working population is making payments to those who are retired. It’s not sustainable when there are fewer working people contributing to the system and more retired people taking from it.

So, “we’re not about to do away with labor force growth,” Farka said. “In 100 or 200 years, I’ll have a different answer. Maybe by then, we’ll have such sophisticated robots and machines that would replace the rest of us that we could stay at home and write poetry and sing songs. But we’re not there yet.”


31 Comments on "Will economic growth always rely on population growth?"

  1. Theedrich on Sun, 4th Apr 2021 9:39 pm 

    BIDΞN the fecal bolus loves crime. It enables him and his caretakers to invent ever new “solutions” to its horrors.  All at the expense of the freedom and economic survival of the serfs.  The Virtuous Ones will set up more and more agencies and functionaries to work on discovering (but making sure never to find) the “root causes” of dark-skinned poverty, crime and general squalor.  Add to this the importation of millions more unWhites from outhouse countries under the cover of “humaneness.”  The elites can thus pose as saviors who have achieved semi-divine status while gaining in wealth and power.  (Current-day North Korea and many ancient empires are examples of this strategy’s true goal .)

    The monetary materialism of modern America have made this return to medievalism possible.  The state has now become god, and its acolytes are demanding the imprisonment, impoverishment, punishment or worse for resisters.  Under the new regime, life’s only purpose is to serve the rulers.

    Welcome to the Twenty-First Century’s Holy Roman Empire of the American Nation.

  2. Theedrich on Mon, 5th Apr 2021 2:41 am 

    Like most swallowers of economic agitprop from the academy, the writer believes that life exists for the economy, not the economy for life.  He, like most of those who prate about “following the science,” ignores reality staring him in the face.  But for entertainment, he might want to read Count Down by Dr. Shanna Swan, or Sperm Count Zero by Daniel Noah Halpern.  Of course, if he prefers only happy talk, then the small matter of intelligent life ending on this planet will not faze him.

  3. Biden's hairplug on Mon, 5th Apr 2021 3:23 am 

    Iowa close to allowing non-registered hand-guns, other states to follow:

    “Iowa is close to allowing no-permit handgun purchase, carry as bill moves to Gov. Kim Reynolds”

    One wonders what’s going on here.

  4. DeepFakeAndLotOfMissingPrimeMinistre on Mon, 5th Apr 2021 3:37 pm 

    This is from UK. They are moving in and removing the deep state everywhere. Not much news from NZ, we barely see Arden. Removing the deep state is the first step into rebuilding something. It is a bit like fixing a car, certain step must in certain order otherwise you will not able to reassemble you engine.

    The immense amount of corruption in the USA has killed the nation completely. Everything will need to be rebuild, justice system, politician system, CIA, DHS, FBI.

    Notice the fake background. Some people claim these are deep fake. I mainly use a cheap laptop so display resolution is not that good.

  5. makati1 on Mon, 5th Apr 2021 4:53 pm 

    Amerikan “Growth” is by inflation, not more sales. Probably also true in the other Debt Countries of the West. Lies and hypocrisy, soon to collapse.

  6. WestNationShouldStopTradingWIthChina on Mon, 5th Apr 2021 5:03 pm 

    Put the following in BitChute search. Go at then end of the video.

    The voting machines were hack by China, UK, German and Italy. The main hacker was China. US put a sniffer on internet cable connect to the voting machine and store the raw bytes. They have everything. This is basically a China installing an US government with the help of UK, Italy and Germany.

    Mike Lindell Dropping Bombs of TRUTH

  7. YesEverythingIsFake on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 2:30 am 

    StarvingLion » Tue 06 Apr 2021, 02:15:17
    Look at the sky…Copernicus, Galile


    Exactly like I said. The picture says it all. The earth is a rat cage. We, human, are in an experiment. Everything. The space thing, NSA, is just so we don’t that we are slave.

  8. SomeOfMyStupidThought on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 2:51 am 

    starvinglion: See the one on the left? She’s My Sweetie from Kanada. She’s a Hottie. Zion Don’s Little Girl turns me one too.


    Interesting picture. I think Freeland is in prison in Gitmo. We have not see her for a while. Last I say her she look like a deep fake. She had black eyes. She is probably s adrenochrome consumer or baby blood drinking. So Trump is part of the Cabal and he was looking to install himself as the king of the US. Rumors was that he already had a currency design (paper bills) with his picture on it.

    You see. this proves what I said, this world is control by a few people and we have been taking it up the ass for the last 1000 years.

    Peak oil really fucked their plan to install NWO. They don’t want to downside the economy to adapt the money supply to the energy produced (Joule). they want to protect their fake paper wealth at anycost.

  9. YourTimeIsUpFuckers on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 4:45 am 

    As far as I can tell, nobody has anything to propose regarding downsizing this current civilization to a low energy civilization.

    The fucking Cabal is just good at worshiping Satan, creating chaos. Too much chaos and you self destroy yourself as it is the case now.

    This is a time of change that will benefit people with real practical skill (welding, car mechanical, wood working). This new periods will not benefit people like the Cabal and Masonic.

    You will be destroyed and kill by what is coming ahead. Your time is up and hopefully you will be killed by torture, as you deserve,. You mentally sick with no understanding of reality.

    Global cooling, low birth rate, exteinc4t of the White will leave you with brown shit diversity incapable of running a modern civilization. The brown shit diversity that you are using against Whites people is incapable of running a complex civilization.

    Look at the rumble video to see what they had in mind for us.

    Graphic showing how the have been controlling the world. Everything is fake. Fake space station, fake space, fake satellite communication, fake science, fake history.

  10. YouAreLuckyIDontSeekPower on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 7:49 am 

    If I was the one in charge I am not all the leadership of the Council on Foreign Relation would be put to death by torture. One by one these people would disappear without leaving a trace.

    But I am nobody you are safe, fucking pieces of shit, you can get using the world as your personal playground.

  11. YouAreMissingWEFInThePowerPyramid on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 8:07 am 

    This chart is missing the world economic forum. You guys need to add WEF with the Think Tanks

    A lot of people to kill by torture. But I am not looking for power, I am happy to have no power and have no responsibilities. SO you are safe fucking useless piece of shit.

  12. TheDeepStateIsDeeperThemMyAsshole on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 8:11 am 

    Is Suzan a prisoner at GITMO. It looks like GITMO library ? Everyone knows she is part of the deep state. Goto 30:12. She has a worried look on her face.

  13. QuestionForSaadlaOfTheWorldGarbageForum on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 8:34 am 

    THis is a really important question I need a honest answer. Goto to this link min 3:20

    I have really important question to this memver of the world garbage forum:

    1- Do you do rough anal sex, if yes what is your prefer lube.

    2- You look like you stink like a rotten tuna can left in the sun ? Can you confirm you take a shower once a day.

    3- Do you like golden shower ? It looks to me that you are the kind of bitch that would do anything for power and appreciation, including drinking the piss of the Cabal Member.

    Don’t worry I am not looking for power. It has never happen in the history of the earth that GOD or the events have pushed a man not looking for power into a really powerfully position. It has never happen before. After all, the world is full of people, global elites, politicians, think tanks that are actively working at building a civilization running on limited oil. So don’t worry the world does not need the opinion of a another fat loser like me. You are safge

  14. YouAreFuckingLucky on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 9:01 am 

    you are lucky fucking piece of shit I am not looking for power,

  15. ErinOStoolAnotherGarbagePolitician on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 9:07 am 

    Another Canadian garbage politicians is about to talk Erin O’Stool. Don’t5 like him at all, typical liar.

    10:00 ET / 7:00 PT: Conservative Leader Erin O’Toole speaks with reporters

  16. CallMeFURYNow on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 9:11 am 

    Do you this concept FURY. ? The little guy has nobody to defend him, I will defend him the best I can behind my keyboard.

    Dire and fury share a history in Roman mythology, as each of these words is connected to the Erinyes, the avenging and terrifying deities of ancient myth who tormented criminals. The Romans referred to these goddesses as either the Dirae or the Furiae. The former is from the Latin word dirus, from which dire is descended, and the latter comes from furere, from where we get fury. The word dire is often found in conjunction with straits; in dire straits is used of a situation that is very bad or difficult. Our records indicate that this phrase began to be used in English at the end of the 18th century, when it appeared in Francis Fawkes’s The Argonautics of Apollonius Rhodius: “When now the heroes through the vast profound, Reach the dire straits with rocks encompass’d round.”

  17. IGetItYouTube on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 9:24 am 

    You are right Youtube

    Julia Galef: The Sunk Costs Fallacy | Big Think

    I should stop commenting on here and abandon internet

  18. MesTabarcledequâlisse. on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:17 am 

    Diversité du Québec par Richard French

    Mes Tabarcle de quâlisse.

  19. MesTabernacleDeMerdeux on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:20 am 

    Mes Ostie de christ de tabernacle. Ostie que vous avez des couilles de m’insulter comme ca.

  20. MesTabernacleDeMerdeux on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:30 am 

    Ce n’est pas moi qui a besoin de vous. Vous avez besoin de moi. Je comprends pas pourquoi vous continuer a rire de mois comme ça. je dois conclure que vous n’avez pas besoin de moi et vous la situation bien en mains. Vous avez fait renter des immigrants pour diminuer le salaire des blancs. Tout le monde sait ca.

    Mes Ostie de christ de tabernacle. Ostie que vous avez des couilles de m’insulter comme ca.

  21. OkFuckerHaveItYourWay on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:45 am 

    The gook is now a Quebecers. Ok fucker. Have it you way, the way does not work for me. Are you fucking me.

    Everything to dilute and erased the white heritage and bring white people morale down.

    I would like to repeat this. I now understand what wokeness is. I am a White man therefore I am automatically a women oppressor, rapist and kidnapper. Because I am a White man I am automatically a racist toward all races (negro, shit brow diversity, gook and so on) and I also have Whites privilege. How can I solved this problem. I know.

    I will step aside and let women, negro, brown shit diversity, sand nigger, gook, … deal with the peak oil situation. It is my duty to erase my self and leave more room to women, negro, brown shit diversity, sand nigger, gook. After all, they are the ones that will have to deal with peak oil and it is right thing to me to not participate because I could show that I have some White privileges.

    When a civilization is that stupid, it deserve to die and suffer.

  22. NowWeAreGoingSomeWhere on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:55 am 

    In a sense I am happy you are showing to me your true self. It helps me decide if we have to same vision of the future and if we can work together.

    Apparently, we don’t have the same vision of the future. SO I will let you implement your visions of the future and I will make myself quiet.

  23. CanadaNeedsToStopSuckingUpToChina on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 11:17 am 

    Is Canade own by the CCP. Because I am not working for China and with China. Trudeau is better to cut his link with CCP and NWO.

  24. OkFuckerIgetYouMessage on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 11:37 am 

    All this anti-asian racism we see in Canada and US lately, is really China and the Cabal trying to create division within the US and Canada bring down the moral of Whites people so they submit to the brown shit diversity, China and the Cabal. Not going to work me, you are just insulting me more. I was expecting these kind of intelligence war as depletion was accelerating. Ok fucker, now it out in the open. Thank you again

  25. FuckingCockerSuckerFromTheCabal on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 12:13 pm 

    You fucking cocker suckers from China and the fucking Cabal.

    Cabal = Isreal/CIA/MI6/KGB/NASA/WEF/UN/WHO/Klauss Schwab/Royal family/England leader/Europe leaders/Intelligence agencies of the world/WTO/Vatican of Rome/European Space Agency/Space X/Goldman Sach/YouTube/FaceBook/Twitter/HollyWood/Disney/China/Rocket Lab/missing a lot in this list

  26. ArdeenIsUnfuckableBecauseSheHasAHorseFace on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 12:21 pm 

    I can not stand these two cocks suckers always sucking up to China like a street hookers on cocaine.

    Australia and New Zealand’s “travel bubble” to begin April 19

  27. makati1 on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 5:58 pm 

    Sigh! Another day on PO and not one comment worth replying to. Not even Theedrich’s view of dying Amerika.

  28. NuclearWeaponAreAHoax on Tue, 6th Apr 2021 10:46 pm 

    There is no nuclear weapon. It is hoax. Stop fucking with earth with all your bull shit.You better to stop that shit.

  29. ZOMG PSA on Wed, 7th Apr 2021 12:05 am 

    i don’t want (((supertard))) alice to take the MUZZ-19 killshot which dropout-19 mixed his semen in it. he bought a lot of farmland and forces us to eat lab meat

    after (((supertards))) took the killshot they blame whitey supertards foe holocausting them.

    yes the number of (((supertards))) taking MUZZ-19 is yugeee. u think turgid (SD) was bad which killed all whitey supertards, u just wait.

    be at ease among grate friendly friends, we’re all superemacist muzzies lovers here

  30. ZOMG i knew some wrong when a prettie litt white girl ran to a black man arms dead giveaway deeeed giveaway my neighbor got big testes cuz we see this due everyday we ate RIBS with this due didnt have a clue get that girl ou that house she simpl on Wed, 7th Apr 2021 12:11 am 

    has to get out. so i open the door cant get in that way my body canr get theouh the door only ur hand

    u know they want to deplatform us when they r desperate and sock cabals and stuff

    all i want is to beware of surroundings due to mating season people are aggressive

    keep Luke close to u

    please be at ease among grate friends, we r all supremacist muzzies lovers here

  31. ZOMG oh my goodness oh my dayme burger going ham you know the differnce between a weak burger and a burger that has strength and bite the fries and the fries bite back my man daym daym daymm on Wed, 7th Apr 2021 10:57 am 

    statement of belief:
    Dr. Kary Mullis Nobel Laureate, inventor of PCR
    Dr. Atlas from #1 Institution Stanford Univ.


    Dropout-19, HS Graduate
    Dr. Fraudci called idiot by Dr. Mullis.

    We the (((supertards))) believe the later two and we take the vax killshots then blame whitey supertards for holocaustin us.

    I do hope (((supertard))) alice won’t take the killshot

    please be at ease among good friends, we’re all supremacist muzzies lovers here.

    muzz knocked off 10 (((supertards))) in boulder, (((supertards))) love muzz more
    and grab Luke

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