The terms derivative and differential are used here in their mathematical sense, denoting rates of change.
Gross national product and living standard are treated as measures of quantity of wealth. In fact, they are not the quantity but its first derivative or first differential, the rate of wealth-throughput. The other first derivative is the rate of renewal of wealth. This rate varies from one resource to another.
If the rate of throughput is faster than the rate of renewal for every vital resource, as is the case in the world today, the world economy is in an unsustainable state. The throughput rate, the world level of economic activity, cannot continue indefinitely at its present level; still less can it go on increasing indefinitely.
The throughput rate must inevitably fall; how far or fast or in how many jerks it does so is not predictable with the same certainty. But however it happens, jobs will be destroyed and material living standards lowered.
Consider the resources for which the throughput rate is currently higher than the renewal rate: oil, gas and coal; fissionable uranium; arable land; potable water; marine animal life; all major metal ores; forests; biological diversity; oxygen-producing oceanic phytoplankton. Others could be listed.
Economic growth is currently taken to mean the rate of increase of wealth. Actually it is the rate of increase of the rate of throughput of wealth. It is the second derivative of wealth. It could be called throughput increase, TI for short.
So what really is economic growth?
Posts in this Series
- Review of 1988 edition of Economics for a Round Earth
- Ends and Means
- Evolution Not Revolution
- Notes on Evolution Not Revolution
- Concepts and Terms – What is ‘wealth’?
- The Throughput Chain
- The Derivatives of Wealth
- Global Inequalities in Wealth
- Economic Growth Redefined
- Misconceptions in Practice
- Borrowing to Invest to Get Rich
- Environment versus Economic Progress
- Digression: Pollution Red Herrings
- Digression: Depletion and Inflation
- Value Inflation – the Trigger, not the Bullet
- Living Standard and Quality of Life
- Digression: Resource Consumption, Jobs, and Hands Off
- When the Boom comes
- The Effect of People’s Expectations
- Hard Work – Virtue or Vice?
- Who needs the Snail Darter?
- More Dollars for Conservation?
- Non-renewable Resources – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Digression: Fast Breeder Nuclear Fission Reactors
- Minerals in National Parks – Leave Them in the Ground?
- Population and Wealth
- Left, Right and The Environment
- Digression: “So Long As We Profit, Costs Elsewhere Aren’t Our Problem”?
- Limits to Growth?
- Solar Energy – a Special Case
- The Solar-Powered Car
- Money Supply, Throughput and Inflation
- Real and Money Wages: Living Standards
- Digression: Caution about “Increases” and “Decreases”
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages: the Great Depression
- Deficit Financing
- The Optimum Proportionate Flow Condition
- Digression: Thrift versus Spendthrift
- Digression: the Private Motor Car – a Basic Necessity?
- The Idea of Proportionate Flows Applied to Wages – the Stagflation of the 1970’s and 80’s
- Excessive Wages Can Cost Jobs
- Fight Unemployment or Inflation First?
- Digression: Work and Jobs
- Other “Job Creation” Schemes
- Visual and Noise Pollution
- Digression: Renewal and Recycling of Resources; Wages and Jobs
- Ratio Distortion and Consumption
- Aggregate Demand – Components and Internal Ratio
- The Slave Economy
- Employment and the Steady State
- Consumer-Led Recovery
- Interest Rates and Ratio Distortion
- Demographic Trends and Living Standards
- Digression: Bad Economics Good for Conservation?
- Coping with Aging Populations
- Stabilising the Human Population
- Costs – What Really Costs Us and What Doesn’t?
- Digression: Other Comments on Statements in UN Report
- Discussion of Costs Resumed
- Budget Balancing Methods – Cost or Gain?
- Digression: Government Expenditure – Government Employees
- Expenditure on Weapons