The new series of In Business on BBC Radio 4 started this week with an analysis of Economic growth, entitled "Growing Pains. http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00w228b I found it balanced, and was pleased that even those who defended it said that it wasn't an end in itself - something our politicians need to learn.
I think it is plausible that human ingenuity will grow infinitely, but some commentators doubt that it can grow quickly enough to tackle our planet's imminent problems by itself. it is plainly true that we have a finite limit on our physical resources - we are in a resource based economy in the general sense even if past economists have wrongly predicted when we would reach them. I think we need to start preparing for the inevitability now.
Economic growth sounds OK, or even good. That's part of the problem. It is technically an increase in Gross Domestic Product (or maybe Gross National Product - the difference isn't important in this context), yet it can include the productive value of clearing up after environmental disasters, or dealing with disease break outs. (Obviously dealing with them is a good thing to do in individual cases, but we don't want any more, just to get economic growth. What we in fact want is growth in healthiness, amongst other things).
And it's all very well scoffing at at attempts to measure happiness, but we do actually want to be happier, so why not try?
Some proponents of economic growth on the radio programme claimed that life expectancy has improved because of economic growth. Whether or not that is true, or whether its a cum ergo ergo propter hoc argument is not really the point. The increase in life expectancy is the thing being aimed for and what we should keep our sights on.