The Good Future Project

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Shrinking the Economy to Save the World

For many economists, the coming demographic apocalypse is a problem only insofar as it will damage the gross domestic product. Though the GDP does not speak in any meaningful way to people’s actual quality of life, it remains an obsession of policy-makers around the world, who accept the premise that a growing GDP is a sign of a healthy economy and that a rising population is a key component of that equation. In a March working paper, Charles Jones, a professor of economics at Stanford University, wrote, “When population growth is negative…living standards stagnate for a population that gradually vanishes.” Conversely, “an ever-increasing population benefits from ever-rising living standards.” As is typical in mainline economics, “living standards” here are defined by GDP per capita, the number you get when you divide a country’s gross domestic product by its population.

Shrinking the Economy to Save the World

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