BPEA | 1992 No. 2

Lethal Model 2: The Limits to Growth Revisited

1992, No. 2

Two DECADES AGO, a ferocious debate erupted about the feasibility and desirability of future economic growth. The popular imagination was captured by a study of the world economy known as The Limits to Growth. This work, sponsored by the mysterious-sounding Club of Rome, convinced many that unfettered economic growth had come to an end and that the world was entering the “era of limits.” The emergence of the anti-growth school was the latest peak in a long intellectual cycle of pessimism about economic growth that originated with Reverend T.R. Malthus in the early 1800s. But such concerns receded from the public consciousness in the 1970s and early 1980s as the immediacy of skyrocketing oil prices, a growing international debt crisis, mounting fiscal imbalances, and slowing productivity and real wage growth displaced vaguer long-term anxieties about declining resources and growing entropy.