‘An unquenchable thirst for more: faith and economic growth‘ is a new report from Christian Aid. It takes a sceptical view of economic growth, asking instead what really contributes to a good life.
As a development NGO, Christian Aid knows the power of growth, but also sees its limitations: “Many of the countries in which we work have experienced high levels of economic growth and falling poverty rates. Yet, notional economic success can mask severe pockets of poverty, growing levels of inequality or the destruction of the natural world.”
In some parts of the world, growth may well be good – lifting people out of poverty, and raising standards of living. In others, it’s the ‘unquenchable thirst’ of the title, hoovering up resources, feeding on disatisfaction, and ultimately futile. In a radical move for any charity, the report suggests that “it could be time to abandon the goal of endless growth and increasing consumption – at least for those who are already prosperous by global standards – and seek to be more just and efficient at sharing existing resources and wealth.”
There are plenty of voices saying similar things. What makes this one particularly interesting is that Christian Aid are writing from their own experience among the world’s poorest people. It takes the voices of the marginalised as its starting point, a key Christian principle. Drawing on examples from India, Ghana and Brazil, they describe how inequality, discrimination or bad policy-making can exclude the poorest from the benefits of growth.
After learning from those Christian Aid serves, the paper then considers the view from economists, and then from theologians, giving us three very different but complementary perspectives. The overview of Christian economics is very helpful, and the discussion of what good development should prioritise.