China, Growth, and the Weakness of Real GDP

Sara Hsu asks if All Growth is Good? The Case of China Of course, not all growth is good. It makes little difference, whether it’s economic or human tissue growth. Edward Abbey famously wrote that “growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of the cancer cell”. Obesity is another form of high-growth, yet it hardly improves well-being or health.

Unfortunately, we economists have not (yet?) developed measures that help us or policy-makers distinguish between healthy growth and malignant growth.  The only real comprehensive measure of growth we have is growth of real GDP. We do know better, as Sara notes:

Since the seventies, with the assertion by Gunnar Myrdal that economic development should prioritize equality, economists have increasingly come to believe that not all types of growth are wholly “good.” Growth that ignores human well-being and equality are viewed as problematic.  Certainly growth that results in severe environmental destruction, as in the case of China over the past twenty years, cannot be classified as good, either, despite the country’s much-lauded successes during this period. Real-world views of growth depicted in the mainstream media do not fall in line, however, with the economic development literature. The focus on China’s growth in the news has distracted from a more balanced view of the looming inequality problems or polluting production methods in the world’s most populous nation.  As China’s growth has slowed, headlines have read, “China’s Economic Growth at Stake,” “China’s Economic Growth Slows,” and “China’s Second Quarter Growth Slows.” -

Yes, China’s real GDP growth rate has been spectacular for several decades now. That growth has lifted literally hundreds of millions of people into better lives. Yet, in strange case of the metaphor becoming real, that economic growth has literally brought cancer with it. Specifically, many “cancer villages” along the Huaihe River.

China’s economy illustrates the problem of growth measured in numbers versus measured in real economic change. The surge in fixed asset investment carried out post-global crisis resulted in an inflation of growth figures, despite the creation of uninhabited apartment buildings, or even entire cities. This is socially unproductive growth, wasteful production, “bad” or false growth. Although the distinction between “good” and “bad” growth exists only in theory, it is essential to clarify the difference to the public in order to move along the path of long-term development.

Admittedly, it may be overambitious to request that a more comprehensive view of growth penetrate the media. However, it would benefit our understanding of China’s economic performance; reconceiving growth would increase competition to generate “good” growth and discourage the race to build businesses that produce “bad” growth.

Yes, I agree. It is indeed an ambitious project, the idea that we could create more comprehensive measures of growth that help us to separate healthy improvement in well-being from cancerous, destructive economic growth. But it seems to me no more an ambitious goal than the vision less than 100 years ago to create the national accounts systems and begin collecting the data (from whence we get GDP measures).

Welcome!

Jim Luke

REV:  Oops.  Didn’t mean to post this here.  I meant to post it to the course site.  Oh well. This is what my course will be like this term.

Welcome to Comparative Economic Systems, ECON 260. I’m Jim Luke, your professor for this course and this is the 2012 incarnation of this course. I’m looking forward to our online “conversations” about economic systems.

This course is a bit different from most of the courses I teach. Normally, I teach Econ 201 and Econ 202, the Principles of Micro-economics and Macro-economics courses. In particular, I teach a lot of ECON 202 Macro. Those courses are chock-full of models and theories – and most of it mainstream neo-classical/neo-liberal market economics. There’s a lot of material to cover in each of those courses because, frankly, 4-yr universities require that we cover all those theories and models. The principles courses involve a lot of math, graphs, and analysis. As a result, sometimes in those courses we spend more time “studying the trees” and we don’t get to “study the forest”, the big picture.

In this course, we look at Comparative Economic Systems.  We look at the ways different societies address the fundamental economic questions of what to produce, who produces it, how to produce it, and ultimately who gets that production and why.

This course is also a “connected course”.  That means that while there’s substantial “content” and information that I as the professor am trying to convey to students, it’s primarily about a shared journey of discovery and reflection by the whole class.  Two key features of this course are that, with exception of graded information such as quizzes and grade reports, the whole course is being conducted in public here on the open Web.  The second feature follows from that open Web.  I’m trying to encourage students to develop their own unique voice and perspective.  To that end, students don’t participate in closed discussion groups behind some closed Learning Management System and create disposable written papers that will be read by one person and then disappear into the abyss.  Instead, students all have their own public blogs on the Web where they sharpen their own insights and voice.  They write and publish their insights on their own blog and then those writings are syndicated and linked here.

If you are a member of the general public, you’re welcome to browse and read all the material here. However, keep in mind that the course is intended for registered students of Lansing Community College.  For that reason comments are limited to those LCC students who are registered for the class.

Affordable Care Act Across Generations

I’m giving a joint presentation with Sue Sweeney of Madonna University’s Aging Studies Department about the The Affordable Care Act.  The Affordable Care Act, also known as “ObamaCare” is a very complex piece of legislation that is changing the health care landscape.  We are offering the presentation on some of the significant provisions of the Act on November 12, 2014 from 10 am to 11:30 am for theMichigan Intergenerational Network.  The Villa of Redford is hosting the event at Villa at Redford, Village of Redford, 25340 Six Mile Road, Redford Township, MI 48240.

 

Building a Community of Academics Using Multi-Sites & Multi-Networks – WordCamp A2 2014

I’m speaking this Saturday, Oct 4, 2104, at WordCamp Ann Arbor 2014.  Here’s the teaser from the schedule:

In developing an online voice, higher education faculty face many challenges and a distinct lack of institutional support. Yet there is an enormous opportunity to improve student learning, improve faculty productivity, and reduce costs for faculty through WordPress and related technologies.

Malartu Inc is a non-profit project launched in Michigan to help provide WordPress sites and technologies to higher ed faculty. After a couple of years of planning and experimentation, the project is launching its first sites in summer 2014 using a WP multi-site/multi-network installation. A BuddyPress/Commons-in-a-Box implementation is added to develop a social network space for collaboration within and between schools.

This session will explore the challenges, benefits, and risks of creating a multi-user / mulit-site community with social network features. The presentation is oriented towards: anyone in higher education and power users/developers interested in multi-site.

I’m talking about my recent experiences with my new project, Malartu Inc., a non-profit organization for creating social and web-based technology to help higher education professors be more effective and more productive – especially the legions of professors at teaching schools or that are adjunct.

Here are the slides: