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World GDP growth rate, 0 AD – 2200

world gdp gross domestic product economy business

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Hey everyone.


For my latest prediction (which I hope to add somewhere around 2050–2150) I'm researching (very) long-term trends in world GDP. It seems that global economic growth already peaked around the mid-1960s, and has declined ever since. Extrapolating from the graph below, the annual rate could fall to essentially 0% by 2200 and possibly sooner.


In other words, a central driving force of humanity will have ended. Today, we take it for granted that the economy will continue to grow each year in perpetuity and our whole political ethos is based around this. But the data suggests that economic "growth" was merely a historical aberration and that we are, quite possibly, heading for a permanent stagnation or plateau.


So, what are the implications of this? How will our societies adapt to the end of growth? Is it inevitable, or could growth continue in some way? How will capitalism evolve over the next century and a half? Will some regions do better than others? Perhaps non-monetary values will be needed to measure human progress and well-being?


This also coincides with a likely plateau in global population (although maybe robots could add to the sentient population?), and a decline in working hours.


Some useful links:


Capital in the 21st century

Post-scarcity economy

Steady-state economy

The Facts of Economic Growth



I'd really appreciate your input/suggestions, as I want to expand our 22nd century timeline pages. :)







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I don't think growth will ever plateau. I think our very concept of what growth is will change, however. Right now, we define values like economic growth by a certain set of parameters. These parameters, like tons of steel produced, or kilograms of grain sold, make sense to us right now, but what's to say that these will be the central pillars of our economy in the future; it's clear that the future of humanity is the virtual world and the internet. Surely this will provide innumerable new ways of generating economic growth; the entire economy could become anchored in virtuality. 


I want to expand on this more, but I'm a bit hungover right now, so my brain is just timing out at this point.




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The graph is a little misleadingly drawn, since each tick on the horizontal axis is not the same number of years.

If you look at what contributes most to the cost of products, currently, it's probably labor -- even energy and material costs probably also have large, disguised labor costs; and energy, also, is undergoing a revolution, and will become cheaper.

Now, if you believe that AI and robotics will rapidly improve in the next couple of decades, then essentially all labor costs will rapidly decline. But, at the same time, it will also mean that it will get harder and harder to sell your labor, as machines get more and more capable of doing things that previously only humans could do. How will people buy the stuff? -- maybe there will be a market for "imperfect, handmade goods"; or people will sell access to their video channel (entertainment); or maybe they will sell their bodies for sex or to be a servant (there's more pleasure in bossing-around a human than a robot). The human touch will become like the touch of King Midas, turning everything to gold.

I think when you look at our situation today, you see that most things are almost "free" to a Western consumer. You can buy clothing (e.g. a t-shirt) at a retail store for less than the price of a meal; and food, also, is pretty cheap (if you buy at a grocery store). These will get even cheaper. Costs will be mostly a reflection of virtual / intangible things like "brand", "status symbol", and "history" (e.g. was it made by a human or a machine). Thus, what will GDP calculations even mean, when they are based largely on the production and consumption of symbols and intangibles (status symbol, brand, history)?


Land will probably become more valuable, relatively speaking, as the cost of labor declines. At some point, it might be one of the best things to invest in.




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Even if "world" economic growth stalls, growth will continue in space economies. 2200 is around the time I predict the locus of civilization to shift away from Earth. 



    Anarchist without an adjective

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Two Things. First a response with some info for Wjfox and second some points of contention I have with Starspawn. 




I'm not up to date on the latest marxist theory but I'm know Piketty has been critiqued to hell and back and I'm almost positive some of his findings are empirically and or argumentatively incorrect. I can't point to specifics, and some of his arguments are sound. This is just nascent knowledge I have from reading various left pieces over the past few years as Piketty's work is very discussed. Growth is slowing though, that central point is true but there's more nuance that I don't have sound knowledge of but know exists. 


Micheal Roberts a marxist economist in the City of London has a blog about his work and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall (TRPF.) Overall the rate of profit has been falling since the industrial revolution on average. The end result of this trend is the end of capitalism which is in line with classical marxist economics. Capitalism depends on growth to survive, when there is no profit to be had businesses will be forced towards more desperate and unstable methods to extract profit from the economy. We already saw the start of this with neoliberalisms affinity for austerity. When profit is hard to find gutting public programs can provide temporary relief as can unstable debt practices. Expect capital to be more volatile and desperate as profit continues to fall. The same concept applies to growth. 


https://thenextreces...ofit-1948-2015/     (An example of how the US's profit rate has fallen)




This trend is excluding the climate crisis which left unchecked will cause collapse in production yields, profit rates and ultimately growth. The projections above I feel might not be fully accounting for different climate crisis scenarios. In the event of unchecked climate change (current path) the projection above would look more precipitous (still gradual but rapid) with growth easily falling into negative rates by the 2070s. Billions of people dying in a runaway climate scenario cannot maintain a growth economy, it defies reason to think that such a circumstance could. Even in a more managed scenario I imagine growth rates will shrink to well under 1% by 2070 given that growth is fundamentally opposed to environmentalism.




To answer your question more directly. I think that by the latter half of the century capitalism will have collapsed in most countries with only a few enclaves remaining globally. Other economies will have either developed some new economic model that can cope with a contracting economy (maybe socialism maybe something new) or they will have degenerated into neofuedal/monopolized oligarchies as what wealth is left becomes increasingly stratified. Post 2100 assuming we survive the climate crisis I expect humanity to find new growth in exploitation of the solar system.


I don't think feudal societies are capable of coping with the climate crisis due to the inherent instability and strife of constant class conflict within such societies. As such, when humanity starts growing again both feudalism and capitalism will be thoroughly dead excluding the fringes of civilization. This means that whatever form such a new growth economy will take it will not look like anything that has come before. If we don't manage the climate crisis it is very likely humanity fluctuates between feudal, mercantile, tribal and slave economies on a desert planet for what may as well be the rest of time. The reason being that surface fossil fuels have already been mostly extracted meaning that another industrial revolution based on more primitive methods is probably impossible. A future industrial revolution could burn biomatter but such a future civilization would burn out rapidly due to mass deforestation.






Workers do not sell their labour, it is extorted from them. By definition one must have negotiating power to influence price in order to sell something. When a price is imposed there is no agency and hence no sale. This is not sale, it is theft, or more strongly worded a form of slavery. Businesses collude to fix wages and this collusion is more pronounced the farther down the income ladder one goes. How does this happen? A capitalist and or a business both command capital. When they decide a price is too high they have the luxury of refusing to buy and can sit on their wealth. When enough people with capital refuse to buy something of value that thing lowers in price in concordance with supply and demand. 


Why is this different for the worker? Why are prices fixed for the worker and hence unfair? Because the worker does not have capital, they only have their labour power. Unlike the capitalist they are compelled to sell their labour power or else they will starve. This in accordance with supply and demand draws prices down for labour as workers scramble to sell in accordance with supply and demand. This is also why lower income workers have less agency compared to higher income workers. Higher skilled and payed workers have more capital to sit on and demand to draw from. Market forces are not even on the side of the worker in the case of switching employers because there is such a glut of labour available on the market and no for-profit business is going to pay above market rate out of the good of their heart. 


So what ends up happening is that the lowest payed workers race each other to the bottom and progressively accept less and less pay while those with capital get to completely control the price of the labour due to their economic leverage despite not producing such labour, hence, price fixing, collusion and exploitation. Where these monied people do not produce value, nor negotiate fair terms for such value. They steal the value from desperate people who have no choice and in a fairer economy would command much higher prices. 


Let us describe the case of the slave. The slave is given what their master affords them and does not have agency in such matters. The case of the worker is identical with one "difference." The worker is given what their boss affords them and does not have agency in such matters. They can however choose to work for a different boss. But again because they have no agency another boss will functionally be the same as their last and not treat them any better economically. Functionally there is no difference. This is how the condition of the worker and slave are the same. 


When unions enter the equation workers gain economic leverage of course. But most modern unions are not generally militant and don't afford economic leverage to their workers. The reason this condition exists at all is because the state regulates how badly businesses (masters) are allowed to treat their workers (slaves.) The state also regulates how a union can act and uses military force to enforce such a condition. State regulation prevents businesses from putting their workers in too harsh of conditions (in the west,) or paying them so little they cannot eat or sleep at all. Doing this prevents real militant unions from forming which are historical analogues to slave revolts. State regulation of workplaces is akin to laws that force slave owners to treating their slaves better so that the slaves don't revolt. That was a rant, but it's late so I'm rambly and it's true.


Second point I took issue with and I will be brief.


Most things are not nearly free to the western consumer if you don't believe me try living on 1,100$ a month in any American city for a little while, it's not comfortable. You'll quickly find that rent eats at least 500$, food another 100-200$, clothing and hygiene 50-100$ depending on the month, utilities 100-200$, transport 75-300$ and medical care more than the entire yearly budget. If things were nearly free than so many people would not be struggling like this. This is less of an academic argument (although one of those could be easily made but do any of us want another 5 paragraph tired Erowind rant?) and more of an appeal to the objective reality of millions of people. 

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