The “anti-growth” perspective and implications for longer- range global policy


My brief comments below are in response to an insightful post by Roger Pielke, Jr., titled “What Does it Mean to be Anti-Growth?” In this argument, Pielke re-defines “anti-growth” by organizing it into three emphases:

  • anti-labor growth
  • anti-capital growth
  • anti-productivity growth

His purpose here is to expose the implications of these stances on poor/developing countries’ longer-term economic viability, as “82% of economic growth will occur in what are today considered to be “poor” parts of the world …” Are those who object to growth fully aware of what they’re actually advocating, longer-term?

Identifying the real terms of the debate about economic growth, as Pielke has done here, unravels it so that we can more fully understand what we’re really talking about when arguing pro- or anti-growth. The real value is that by exposing the rhetorical consequences of an anti-growth perspective, Pielke re-focuses our attention on the (ironic) longer-term implications of these perspectives. Namely, that taking an anti-growth stance, in essence, will ultimately limit or prohibit (now) poor countries’ economic opportunities because it is those (now) poor countries that are ultimately going to be responsible for nearly 80% of future economic productivity.

I see multiple, valuable connections between this argument and with the agendas of institutes like RAND’s Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition. For instance, in accordance with your emphasis on the rhetorical implications of an anti-growth stance on the longer-term opportunities for (now) poor countries’ future economic progress, I also wonder about the rhetorical distinctions, and consequences, of using the term “development” instead of “growth.”

Is it possible that by re-framing the anti-growth debate as “development,” we could more accurately communicate the real intentions for supporting the economic viability of (now) poor countries’ future opportunities?  Could using the (alternative) term “development” be a way of disengaging from the pervasive and popular anti-growth perspective? I’m suggesting this because of Lakoff’s extensive work on framing and cognitive linguistics, which argues that, “using your opposition’s terms reinforces their definition of the issues” and neurally activates the very associations you’re attempting to challenge or change.  In contrast, re-framing the issue – in this case, anti-growth- as “development” (or using another term that is similar in meaning but different from “growth”) has perhaps better potential for exposing the real, longer-term implications of an anti-growth perspective. The challenge, of course, is the consistent, persistent use of this new frame in conversations like Pielke’s, that insightfully trace the real, rhetorical implications of more general/seasoned debates … But the ways in which we’ve already begun – with the rhetorical parsing of “anti-growth” as Pielke has shown here- seem to imply a readiness for a new, more powerful type of political debate …

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About klangbehn

Doctoral Candidate: Rhetoric of Science University of South Florida 4202 E. Fowler Avenue Tampa, FL 33620-5550 View all posts by klangbehn

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