Growth and quality of life: lessons from Japan

Written by Ed Dolan Sunday, 17 February 2013 16:51
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There is a growing concern that economic growth, as we know it, is coming to an end. Economists, who tend to view growth as good, are uneasy with that idea.


Many environmentalists, who are more prone to focus on the downside of growth, view a steady-state economy more positively. Richard Heinberg, author of the book The End of Growth, sees a no-growth economy as an immanent reality to which we must adapt whether we want to or not. In his view, whether the no-growth future works out well or not depends on how well we manage the transition. If we manage it well, we can maintain and even improve our quality of life without an ever increasing GDP. If not, he sees a much less pleasant future.


But rather than speculate about what a no-growth future might look like for the United States, why not see what we can learn from Japan, where a no-growth economy, or something close to it, has been a reality a generation already. What does the Japanese experience suggest about the linkage between economic growth and the quality of life?


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About Ed Dolan


Edwin G. Dolan is an economist and educator with a Ph.D. from Yale University. Early in his career, he was a member of the economics faculty at Dartmouth College, the University of Chicago, and George Mason University. From 1990 to 2001, he taught in Moscow, Russia, where he and his wife founded the American Institute of Business and Economics (AIBEc), an independent, not-for-profit MBA program. Since 2001, he has taught at several universities in Europe, including Central European University in Budapest, the University of Economics in Prague, and the Stockholm School of Economics in Riga, where he has an ongoing annual visiting appointment. During breaks in his teaching career, he worked in Washington, D.C. as an economist for the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice and as a regulatory analyst for the Interstate Commerce Commission, and later served a stint in Almaty as an adviser to the National Bank of Kazakhstan. When not lecturing abroad, he makes his home in Washington’s San Juan Islands.


Ed is the author of There Aint No Such Thing As A Free Lunch

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