Most countries want to improve living standards through economic development. However, some argue that with economic development certain social values are lost.
Do you think the advantages of economic development outweigh the disadvantages?
The benefits of an improved economy are self-evident. It is no coincidence that the countries with the highest living standards, life expectancy, education levels, spending power and employment scope are those that have undergone economic development. Furthermore, using a nation’s wealth to lift people out of poverty is a humane, moral line of action. Yet economic development, when considered objectively, does have negative social effects that, whilst not annulling these advantages, do leave it stained.
One of the most common and most obvious drawbacks of economic development is the manner in which it leads to environmental destruction, and many countries have polluted themselves to great extents in search of a different type of green. In seeking resources to sell or with which to build, swathes of countryside are turned into mines, whilst cities expand upwards and outwards. Against improved industry and stretching infrastructure, the environment often plays second fiddle.
Yet environmental damage is only one case in which more money creates more woe. Social maladies catalysed by greed and materialism are almost inevitable as money invariably manifests itself in monopoly, power and exploitation. Essentially, rather than seeing economic development as a tool for cooperation and common improvement, many people in leadership roles use it to fortify hierarchal structures and move the existing elite into a super-elite that no longer concerns itself with the everyday. The social values the French dubbed ‘liberté, egalité, fraternité’ become drowned by financially-backed systems to protect power and privilege.
Yet these drawbacks are not presently enough to argue against economic development simply because the social structure humans have created requires money in order to fulfil basic needs. For people living within the grips of famine and anchored by a lack of opportunity, alleviating poverty is all that matters, whilst greater wealth means better living at the top. The fact that this same system is open to those bound to greed or with intentions of preying on compliance is a sad side-effect. It is therefore the responsibility of those fortunate enough to be in a position of power to ensure that people and the planet are not abused until a better system can be found.