May 2023

IZA DP No. 16191: We Already Live in a Degrowth World, and We Do Not like It

The Degrowth Movement calls for "degrowth" – a reduction in GDP in advanced economies – to avert an ecological crisis. This paper argues that the Degrowth Movement misses that the West is already in a state resembling degrowth – a Great Stagnation. This state of degrowth and its correlates, declining entrepreneurship, innovation, science, and research productivity, are described. It is concluded that the notion that a degrowth economy can generate the technological progress necessary to tackle ecological and social crises and challenges is far-fetched. Moreover, as economic stagnation has taught, the consequence of degrowth is a zero-sum society: redistribution, instead of production, becomes the basis of the economy. In such a context, more degrowth will only make problems worse. This paper concludes by discussing scenarios for moving beyond Degrowth. Whether collapse or unimaginable riches through breakthrough technological progress will be the future, these scenarios suggest that there is more to humanity's future than envisaged by the Degrowth Movement.