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Can we predict long-run economic growth?


  • Timothy J. Garrett


For those concerned with the long-term value of their accounts, it can be a challenge to plan in the present for inflation-adjusted economic growth over coming decades. Here, I argue that there exists an economic constant that carries through time, and that this can help us to anticipate the more distant future: global economic wealth has a fixed link to civilization's overall rate of energy consumption from all sources; the ratio of these two quantities has not changed over the past 40 years that statistics are available. Power production and wealth rise equally quickly because civilization, like any other system in the universe, must consume and dissipate its energy reserves in order to sustain its current size. One perspective might be that financial wealth must ultimately collapse as we deplete our energy reserves. However, we can also expect that highly aggregated quantities like global wealth have inertia, and that growth rates must persist. Exceptionally rapid innovation in the two decades following 1950 allowed for unprecedented acceleration of inflation-adjusted rates of return. But today, real innovation rates are more stagnant. This means that, over the coming decade or so, global GDP and wealth should rise fairly steadily at an inflation-adjusted rate of about 2.2% per year.

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  • Timothy J. Garrett, 2012. "Can we predict long-run economic growth?," Papers 1211.3102,
  • Handle: RePEc:arx:papers:1211.3102

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Saunders, Harry D., 2000. "A view from the macro side: rebound, backfire, and Khazzoom-Brookes," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 28(6-7), pages 439-449, June.
    2. Irene Scher & Jonathan Koomey, 2011. "Is accurate forecasting of economic systems possible?," Climatic Change, Springer, vol. 104(3), pages 473-479, February.
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