Growth without prosperity in modern day Nova Scotia
We hear a lot about growth. It's become one of those words politicians like - an indisputably good thing.
But what is growth and why do we care about it?
This week there has been a lot of talk about 'growth' in the lobster industry. There been 'growth' in shareholder wealth at Clearwater and the economic forecasts are that China will solve all our problems. Tim Bousquet summarizes the discussion in The Examiner.
Economists concern themselves deeply with Productivity Growth because for any given group getting a better shovel, or boat or fertilizer, etc means that more money can be made from any given combination of labour and natural resources. Productivity growth is how we got the modern world and everything in it.
But growth is definitely one of those words that can be co-opted to mean anything and any questioning is "negative".
The government in Nova Scotia is all about “growth”. From the perspective of most Nova Scotian households economic “growth” needs air quotes.
In the case of the 'growing' lobster industry we're not adding value but simply extracting scarce resources. 'Growth' here means simply drawing down a limited and little understood natural resource more and faster. Like jelly beans in a jar, having a bigger scoop doesn't make the jar any bigger or any more jelly beans at the bottom. It just means someone gets a lot of beans at once... with predictable consequences. This kind of growth is a short term gain with long term pain.
Not only has nothing actually 'grown', the fundamental problem is that unlike our past experience 'growth' is disconnected from broadly shared prosperity. And it's not clear to either the government or the average citizen what should be done to reconnect growth and prosperity.
Everyone has a sense that something is wrong. That in spite of all our wealth Nova Scotia is not operating correctly. This is the problem. Growth is disconnecting from broad-based prosperity.
The task of government is to see that growth reaches down and raises the living standard of the vast majority of households, especially the lowest, not just a narrow slice at the top, or worse, an out-conveyor-belt economic machine that simply uses 'growth' to more efficiently remove prosperity from the province.
Writing about life, citizenship, and Nova Scotia.