Headline: How Much Is Enough? What German Parliamentarians Think About Economic Growth


The question of whether economic growth hinders or promotes sustainable development has been the subject of heated debated. For some, both the consumption of natural resources and the environmental harms that accompany economic growth pose a threat to the future of our planet. Others claim that it is only by improving their economic performance that societies can hope to address social and environmental concerns. In the middle-ground between these two extremes, there are those who make the case for a model of growth that is socially and ecologically sustainable.

Discussion of the feasibility and desirability of economic growth has spread beyond academic circles in recent years and the issue has become a matter of public debate, particularly in German-speaking countries. Researchers at the IASS have interviewed members of the German parliament and their employees in an effort to understand how these concerns are reflected in daily parliamentary practice in Berlin. The researchers compared the responses of their interviewees with statements in publicly available parliamentary documents such as government communiqu├ęs, briefings, and motions tabled by groups in the German parliament.

Is growth still a major policy goal?

In its seventeenth legislative term, the German parliament commissioned an Enquete Commission to consider this issue. In its final report, the commission noted that there was an emerging consensus that prosperity can no longer be equated solely with material growth. But can such fundamental issues as intergenerational justice, the Earth’s carrying capacity, and the desire to future-proof the German economy and numerous social systems be properly addressed in everyday parliamentary practice with its various committees and groups? Are parliamentarians able to form an independent opinion on such issues that will resonate with stakeholders and electorates? According to the authors, the nuanced positions adopted by their interviewees were reshaped but not entirely overshadowed by party political influences. In the documents analysed by the researchers, on the other hand, growth figured as a stand-alone goal, comparable to job creation – a linguistic strategy which, the authors argue, confirms growth as a policy goal and wards off criticism.

The IASS Study Das Wachstumsparadigma im Deutschen Bundestag reviews the role of growth in parliamentary discourse and explores the often complex positions revealed in interviews with parliamentarians and their staff.

Rivera, M., Saalbach, C., Zucher, F., Mues, M. C. (2016): Das Wachstumsparadigma im Deutschen Bundestag: Ergebnisse und Fragen aus dem Projekt „Growth in Politics“. - IASS Study, October 2016.