The Instigator
A.K
Con (against)
Winning
3 Points
The Contender
SkepticalDebatee
Pro (for)
Losing
0 Points

3% annual economic growth in unsustainable

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Post Voting Period
The voting period for this debate has ended.
after 1 vote the winner is...
A.K
Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/20/2014 Category: Economics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 664 times Debate No: 52962
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)

 

A.K

Con

Definitions:
X% economic growth is an increase in GDP by X/100 for a given time period
GDP is equal to: all money earned by people and businesses OR all money spent by people or businesses OR the nominal value of all goods produced in an economy.
Unsustainable means cannot continue indefinitely (or for a very long time)

First round: acceptance only. Second: openings, no rebuttals. Third: rebuttals (new arguments acceptable). Fourth: closing, final rebuttals permitted.
SkepticalDebatee

Pro

I accept this challenge. It should be interesting.
Debate Round No. 1
A.K

Con

The burden of proof is on you, because you are proving that economic growth is unsustainable.

I must prove that an economy can grow indefinitely (within reason). I have three main arguments:
1. More population and/or resources are not necessary to increase GDP

Rising population is not necessary to maintain growth. Japan has a stagnant population, and still grows (albeit with torpor).

Increased utilization of natural resources is not necessary to maintain growth. Now I'm not saying that non-renewable resources do not contribute to growth (just look at any OPEC nation). But GDP growth can easily occur without using non-renewable resources. Let's examine the internet/digital economy. It uses few resources other than servers, and labor, which is renewable. According to McKinsey, a global consulting firm (source: http://www.mckinsey.com...), in a study of 13 countries, the internet economy makes up 3.4% of GDP. Without depleting natural resources. In addition, the growth rate of the internet economy is growing at 17%!

This means that without using any natural resources, an internet-based economy could grow by up to 17%!

Common objections to the sustainability of 3% growth include that natural resources cannot be endlessly extracted. But they don't need to be!

2. We can grow without killing the environment
Other questions about the sustainability of endless economic growth are environmental. But according to this Department of Energy Paper (source: http://www.netl.doe.gov...), carbon dioxide can be extracted from the air. This process, known as carbon sequestration, is not only possible, but also a feasible alternative to redesigning CO2 emitting vehicles. Also, green energy is a viable industry.

Essentially, this means that economic activity does not have to destroy our environment. In fact, privatizing carbon sequestration means that protecting the environment could be its own industry.

3. As long as technology improves, GDP can also increase
Let me also address a mathematical model of GDP, and technology. Here is an equation proposed by economist Thomas Malthus:
C>=P*R*T
where C is the capacity of the earth, P is population, R is the amount of resources allowed to each person, and T is technology, or how efficiently resources are used. Better technology means that T is lowered. If GDP is as defined, is equal to P*R (total income). By continuing technological innovations, we can increase the potential for GDP to grow. Essentially, as long as technology improves, GDP can increase.

Good luck.
SkepticalDebatee

Pro

The problem with a constant growth in GDP is that in such a globalized world you can't just expect other countries to let your country grow. As an example let's say a technology based company, like Japan or Germany, could create a true artificial photosynthesis. Now you don't need coal or gas etc. to run your house at night. This could devastate the economies of energy based countries/states. With any sustainability question one can not just assume that it will be a perfect, no outside effect economy forever and ever.

It is also important to realize that just relying on companies to make or spend 3% more on average each year. It's just not all that likely that companies will constantly be innovative. (and lucky when they are.) There has to be some form of government interaction to make sure that there will be constant growth. This may include things like raising minimum wage, but you can't just raise minimum wage over and over again. What can be done to make sure that their is constant economic growth in a country of at least 3%?

Finally, it must be understood that each time an economy goes up by 3% it is going up slightly more than last time. 100% 103%, 106.09%, 109.18027% 112.2754081% etc. This may not seem like much at first but it's going to add up eventually you're going to have to be adding 4 or 5 percent of what the income started out as. There has to be exponential growth.
Debate Round No. 2
A.K

Con

I will provide a rebuttal of this argument.

"The problem with a constant growth in GDP is that in such a globalized world you can't just expect other countries to let your country grow."

Actually, you can. Globalization has actually helped economic growth - look at all of the gloabal financial institutions devoted to promoting economic growth: the EU (although somewhat unsuccessful), the World Bank, the IMF (although they have some destructive policies), the WTO, and the UN. Economic growth is almost by definition international. For example, the US depends on China for manufacturing, and China depends on american innovations to manufacture.

"It is also important to realize that just relying on companies to make or spend 3% more on average each year. It's just not all that likely that companies will constantly be innovative. (and lucky when they are.) There has to be some form of government interaction to make sure that there will be constant growth. This may include things like raising minimum wage, but you can't just raise minimum wage over and over again. What can be done to make sure that their is constant economic growth in a country of at least 3%?"

There are several simple, uncontroversial solutions to this probelm. Government can encourage competition (through legislation, primarily the Sherman and Clayton acts in the US). Companies that have failed to be innovative, like Apple, recently, have been punished by the market.

"Finally, it must be understood that each time an economy goes up by 3% it is going up slightly more than last time. 100% 103%, 106.09%, 109.18027% 112.2754081% etc. This may not seem like much at first but it's going to add up eventually you're going to have to be adding 4 or 5 percent of what the income started out as. There has to be exponential growth."

Yes, economic growth is essentially always exponential. World economies have been managing exponential growth over the past two centuries (since the industrial revolution). Before the industrial revolution, growth did not exist. Wages in Babylon were, in real terms, the same as wages in the Roman empire, or in 18th century Britain. Once the industrial revolution's surge in technology began, real wages and standards of living rose all around the industrializing world. This observation is known as the Malthusian trap, developed by influential economist Thomas Malthus (biography here: http://en.wikipedia.org...).

One of my main arguments is that as long as technological innovation motivated by free market capitalism and globalization continues, so will economic growth. In every developed country on earth, technology has been consistenly improving. In 1500, it was the printing press. In the 1870s, it was the phone. In 1900, it was mass production. In the 1960s - now, it was the Internet. In the 1970s - now, it was personal computing. In the 1990s, and the early 2000s, it was the internet start-up. In the late 2000s, it was clever and convoluted maniputlation of financial markets (just kidding). Perhaps in the 2010s, it will be 3D printing.

The point is that constantly improving technology has driven exponential economic growth. There is no evidence that it will stop now.




SkepticalDebatee

Pro

"The burden of proof is on you, because you are proving that economic growth is unsustainable.

I must prove that an economy can grow indefinitely (within reason)."

So I guess that BoP is on both of us then. As you state- "burden of proof is on you" and "I must prove".

1. a. Con's first argument, or rather rebuttal against an argument I never made, is that you don't need a growing population to have economic growth. What about extreme cases though? What if a piece of the nation seceded or a civil war broke it in two? What if terrorists nuked a major city? (This is possible. http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu...) Sometimes it's possible for population growth to be bad too. If a nation were to have a 3% growth in GDP annually there would be a lot of immigration, often illegal immigration. Since immigrants are willing to take lower wages, illegal immigrants often aren't even paid minimum wage, wages for all laborers will go down, thus reducing GDP. (This is happening in the U.S. now. http://cis.org...) I would like to see con refute all these scenarios in his final round. I don't think he can.
b. He then states that increased utilization of resources are not needed to maintain growth. He gives statistics about the internet economy, and says that an internet based economy could grow by 17%. How though, could an economy be based solely on the internet? I'm going to assume that by this he means that his nation won't quickly be out of resources, but I fail to see how having your resource based economy shrink in comparison to the rest would be better than running out after 800, instead of 400 years, would be better. Neither is good for sustainability.

2. We are not debating if it is ethical, but rather if it is sustainable. If you mean that we won't kill ourselves by ruining the environment then I guess I can assume we are talking about 100's or 1000's of years. (This means you can't rule out extreme cases like I gave above. In these time frames something like them will happen.

3. I am a bit confused by this equation. Resources and population are shown to be important factors, but in your first contention you said that you couldn't, and didn't have to, rely on either. What makes technology so much more reliable? Is it impossible for technology not to get better. The unfortunate thing for you is that your only argument contradicts one of your rebuttals. (Your first "argument" to be specific.) So now you have no arguments. (Debate ethics state that you can't introduce new arguments in the last round.) Or, you have no rebuttal against my new arguments, which I expect to be quite the kicker to find something new to attack with, but I'll get to those later. The final blow to this argument is that technology can take away jobs (http://www.economist.com...) the economy may figure out a new way to employ people, historically it has, but you are still left with a dilemma. If you don't improve technology then the economy will stagnate, but if you do there will be times when the economy takes a dive. This is unsustainable. You're d**ned if you do you're d**ned if you don't.

So I present my new argument. You can't rely on a steadily increasing population and/or a limitless supply of resources to fuel economic growth.

Good luck.
Debate Round No. 3
A.K

Con

Rebuttal:

To 1a
This is an absurd argument. Of course the world will face wars and terrorism and immigration, and of course these are not good for growth. But despite wars, and terrorism, and immigration, the developed world grew at a relatively consistent pace for the 20th century, if you ignore the 1930s and 1970s (which were abnormal by any standard). In other words, all of your scenerios (yes all) are ephemeral, and the exception, not the norm.

To 1b
I never advocated a purely internet based economy. My point was that rapid growth in several sectors is possible without a proportionate amount of resource consumption.

To 2
If what is ethical vs. sustainable? Economic growth? I don't understand this argument.

To 3
This equation explains that without technology, population times per capita consumtion (essentially GDP), but with technological innovation, population times per capita consumption can increase. Overall, as long as technology advances, GDP can advance. Job loss from more technology is temporary. Honestly, I really don't see what is so hard to understand about this equation.

Your dismissal of all arguments was rather (c)rude, and didn't make sense anyways (neither did your rebuttals). You failed to adequately adress the environmental and technological sustainability of 3% growth. We can, as I have shown, grow as we have been, without increasing our population, the amount of resources we use, and the amount we damage the environment.

You have, I will grant, been markedly successful in delivering an impressive quantity of meaningless soundbites. Bravo.


Conclusion:

Sectors of the economy can grow rapidly, while consuming few non-renewable resources. Environmental concerns can be mitigated through processes such as carbon sequestration. And technology increases potential GDP growth, almost by definition. As long as technology increases, so will potential GDP.


I would like to thank my opponent for this debate. I learned a lot while defending my arguments. Thank you.

SkepticalDebatee

Pro

I would like to start by pointing out that in his rebuttal Con made several arguments against mine that were fact instead of logic based without citing sources. (Other than a Wikipedia biography-essentially pointless.)

1. Con asserts that globalization has helped the economy, while dropping my actual case. To assert that globalization can't hurt a nations economy is absurd. Has con never heard of tariffs? The problem of course with tariffs as a solution to this problem is that if the tariffs are low consumers will continue to buy the better product, and if tariffs are high people get angry. (http://www.britannica.com...)

2. "There are several simple, uncontroversial solutions to this probelm. Government can encourage competition (through legislation, primarily the Sherman and Clayton acts in the US). Companies that have failed to be innovative, like Apple, recently, have been punished by the market." Okay. Why then does the U.S. not have a GDP growth of 3% each year? This argument was highlighting the fact that you have not explained a single measure that can be taken to ensure growth. If you can't show me what can be done differently, why should I expect wildly different results in this country than any other?

3. My opponent claims that because of technology we have exponential growth. He then fails to elaborate why improving productivity or making new inventions causes this. As far as I was aware that is not how supply and demand works. The real reason that growth began in the industrial revolution was the formation of the middle class. This meant that not only the extremely wealthy could buy superfluous products. (http://www.bbc.co.uk...) The middle class may have been formed by the industrial revolution, but continuing this trend does not necessarily mean that he middle class will grow or become more wealthy. Just look at the U.S. (http://money.usnews.com...) The very country that you used as an example for making laws that encourage innovation has a struggling middle class-the backbone of growth.

Conclusion:

My opponent focused to much on rebuttals of my arguments and those of others, and therefore failed to deliver any methods of this becoming achievable. You simply can't cite failed attempts as evidence that something can be achieved. He also failed to cite sources, whereas I did not. Finally, his rebuttals were just nonsense that focused solely on a "nuh-uh" attitude rather than bringing up anything new, whereas, again, mine were not. For this reason I urge a Pro vote.

P.S. I really enjoyed this debate. It's by far the best I've had on this site, and I wish it could go on a round or two more. I sorely want to attack the rant that is your round 4.
Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by A.K 3 years ago
A.K
Would you mind not sabotaging my debate? It won't work, and its a low blow, especially when you're loosing our debate.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Jifpop09 3 years ago
Jifpop09
A.KSkepticalDebateeTied
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
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Total points awarded:30 
Reasons for voting decision: A simple RFD for a simple winner. Con started off with some solid contentions, and was correct in placing the BOP on Pro. His equation didn't ,make much since, but the point was clear. A long as technology innovates, so will new markets. The resolution was actually if a country can handle it. Which con's contentions more then proved they can. Economic output can very easily meet populous demand, as shown. Maybe if Pro spent more time not debating C5, then he might of won. As for sources, they were good on both sides.