Episode 143
Dec 10, 2019

Must. Keep. Growing.

But why? We do the numbers every day around here, but are we doing them right? Are we even looking at the right numbers?

Every single day here at Marketplace, Kai Ryssdal “does the numbers,” talking about how the stock market fared at close. When the numbers are up, we play … the happy music.

We also talk about bond yields, the number of jobs created each month and the size of this country’s economy: the gross domestic product. We talk about these numbers “beating expectations” or showing “consistent growth,” and, frequently, an economy that’s not “slowing down.”

On this week’s “Make Me Smart,” we answer a question that listeners Stephanie Aldrich and Susan Tetterton independently wrote in to ask: Why? Does the economy always need to get bigger, all the time, forever?

Tetterton quoted author Ursula K. Le Guin, who said it best in her essay “Clinging Desperately to a Metaphor“: “In taking uncontrolled, unlimited, unceasing growth as the only recipe for economic health, we’ve dismissed the ideas of optimum size and keeping the organism in balance.”

Here to help us sort through both the economic and adjacent existential questions — and maybe even figure out some better numbers to “do” — is Josh Bivens with the Economic Policy Institute.

Finally, as the end of the year approaches, we’re looking for your predictions! Turn your crystal ball toward 2020 and tell us what you see coming by sending a voice memo to makemesmart@marketplace.org.

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The team

Molly Wood Host
Donna Tam Interim Senior Producer
Tony Wagner Digital Producer
Marissa Cabrera Producer
Bridget Bodnar Senior producer