Leaving aside the recent tendency for use of the word “exponential” by people who don’t understand what the word actually means, it would be nice if people understood the underlying concept. A professor (now emeritus but not “gone emeritus”) Albert Bartlett has been trying to explain this for quite a number of years now.
In the late 1960’s I began to realize that people didn’t understand the large numbers that result from steady growth rates. So, forty years ago I developed the talk; I’ve given it an average of once every 8.7 days for 40 years.
That’s from a (relatively) recent interview of Bartlett by Miguel Barbosa, appearing on a “Stock Market Insight” page. Another interesting point is this:
Do you think most politicians understand growth rates, but prefer to look the other way?
These are chamber of commerce types: promoters, builders, architects. Their business is promoting growth. But the single thing to note is that, both at the community level and national level, growth doesn’t pay for itself. The more you grow the greater your debt load. Colorado has had decades of wild and largely uncontrolled growth and is now practically bankrupt. People become fed up with the constant increases in taxes needed to pay the costs of growth and they vote for tax limitation measures. Unfortunately, the growth promoters seem to find ways around these limitations, so the growth continues and the consequent problems escalate rapidly. We can see this happening in California and we have a similar situation brewing in Colorado.
I say “relatively recent” because though the article is dated Jan 15, it seems to refer to Bush as the current president. But I’m inclined to blame the venue, and not the interviewee, as a great deal of other sensible things get said.