China is an interesting case - they have slowed population growth, but are in the process of rapidly "tapping into" the existing population as members of the economy. Simple head counts don't tell the economic story, it's how much those people participate in the system - are they isolated farmers, basically growing their own food, building and maintaining their own houses, roads, wells, etc.? In that case they contribute essentially zero to the economy beyond what little "tax" the government might be able to levy off of their farm production. Now, if the farmers buy equipment, increase efficiency in the fields, send their children to the factories to work, and start buying other things from the factories, that's going to be a similar effect as an increase in headcount in an "economically engaged" country.
Tune-in, turn-on, drop-out can have an opposite effect, turning active members of an economy into commune-dwelling non-members. I don't think we've ever had a significant example of this kind of economic exodus that out-paced immigration and birth rates.
On the issue of profits and the "free market," one of my bigger concerns is how volatility is being used to stifle competition. It looks like a wildly competitive market when commodity prices swing up by 80% then down by 40% the following year, but, in reality, I think it damages competition and increases profits because consumers aren't in control, they don't have time to find the best price when the prices are changing by 10 and 20% on a weekly basis. Of course, gasoline is a huge poster child for this, but I have also seen it in the grocery store - weekly "BOGO" specials cutting prices by 50%, seemingly to desensitize consumers to the fact that "normal" prices are now at 100% markup, and if you want to bargain shop, you'll have to build your own warehouse to take advantage of the pricing scheme.