34. International Public Finance Conference
Economic Growth: A Short History of a Controversial IdeaGareth Dale
This paper explores the origins and evolution of the ‘growth paradigm’--the idea that economic growth is natural, imperative, continuous, a fundamental social good, and the solution to manifold social ills. In pre-modern civilisations, it finds, the growth paradigm is absent. The paper proposes that, in close connection with the rise of capitalism and Europe’s colonial land grab, a set of socio-economic, cultural and ideological changes conducive to the growth paradigm arose during the middle of the last millennium. The paper notes that a key moment in the advent of the growth paradigm was the seventeenth-century, with its mercantilist economists and its colonial missions. In the penultimate section of the paper, the ideology of growth in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries are traced. The concluding section unpacks the construction of the growth paradigm and explores its relationship to capitalism.