Saturday, August 30, 2014

Growth Tremors in Europe

Once more, in the news this morning, gloom and doom (as if we didn’t have enough of that already). The reason for this is that, in Europe, German (-0.6%), French (-0.1), and Italian (-0.8) Gross Domestic Product numbers came in negative for the second quarter compared with the first. The change in Europe’s total GDP was a positive 0.2 percent, but in our day and age positive growth at such low levels is viewed with alarm.

In our times nobody asks how much growth is necessary in our economies. In other words: What is the underlying measure? The underlying measure, it seems to me, is population growth. Whenever GDP growth exceeds population growth—and the more it does so the more true this is—we are engaged in unnecessary overconsumption.

Just to check this out, I looked to see where European population growth now stands. “Now” in this context is 2012, the last year for which UN statistics are available. That year the growth stood at roughly 0.18 or 0.19 (I’m taking data from a graph). Therefore the Q2 GDP growth in Europe is just a shade higher than actual population growth. The two, in other words, are in equilibrium. I am showing the population graphic below; I found it here; the data for it come from this UN report (link).

Sooner or later, and all over the world, we will have to adjust to GDP growth rates that match population growth rates pretty closely rather than diverging sharply—as in the graphic that I’m reproducing from a previous post:

Why? Because the Age of Oil is drawing to a close and we shall be obliged to adjust to the “new normal” eventually. This reasonable projection is simply never seriously pondered by our media which are still convinced that nothing is changing at the basic levels of the world economy. But things are changing. Europe may be ahead of its time and Angela Merkel wise rather than foolhardy in insisting on austerity.

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