"Our greatest responsibility is to be good ancestors."

-Jonas Salk

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Steady State Economy

There's an outfit called the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy.

Here is its position statement, which has some notable signatories.

In my articles of last week and future followups I have been trying to decide if there might be some way to thread the needle: i.e., keep the necessary forms of growth to avoid disruption of the administrative processes we have developed in a growth economy, while avoiding further growth in impact and indeed allowing a slow scaling back. As far as I know I am the only person trying to articulate such a position, if it is feasible. If I become convinced it is infeasible, I will sign on to the CASSE position.

Via Tommy T, here is a recent open letter from the organization's executive director:
The evidence continues to mount. The way we run the economy around
the world is damaging the life-support systems of the planet. We are
treading water in a sea of profound environmental problems (like
climate disruption, species extinctions, and deforestation to name a
few). At the same time, our financial systems have entered a crisis
mode in the midst of increasing unemployment and a widening gap
between the haves and the have-nots. In the quest for economic growth,
the nations of the world are locked in a tragic competition for the
planet’s remaining natural capital. If economic growth is the best way
to manage our affairs, then why should I be worried about global
warming and losing my job at the same time?

The grow-at-all-costs mindset is at fault. It is time to examine the
irrational assumptions behind this mindset and get busy changing it to
fit the realities of the natural world. The modifier “grow-at-all-
costs” is perfectly applicable. Nations have an acute unwillingness to
explore the costs of growth. Economic growth is simply an increase in
the production and consumption of goods and services, and is indicated
by increasing Gross Domestic Product (GDP). GDP, therefore, has become
the standard measure of economic progress, even though it was only
intended as an accounting tool. Prompted by banks, governmental
organizations, and the media, citizens generally applaud increases in
GDP. The problem with GDP is that it doesn’t separate costs from
benefits. It simply adds them together under the heading of economic
activity. Even if the costs of growth outweigh the benefits, as the
evidence suggests, we still pursue it.

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE)
takes a different position. The CASSE position, a document that can be
signed by individuals and endorsed by organizations, recognizes the
conflict between economic growth and environmental protection. It
proposes the steady state economy, characterized by stable population
and per capita consumption, as a desirable alternative to continued

Many leading sustainability thinkers have signed this position,
including David Suzuki, Vandana Shiva, David Orr, Bill McKibben,
Herman Daly, Caroline Lucas, Gus Speth, and Wendell Berry. Dozens of
organizations have endorsed the position, and it has been used as a
model for professional scientific societies to adopt their own
positions on economic growth. The point is to develop a critical mass
of support behind the idea of prosperous, yet non-growing economy – a
truly sustainable and green economy. Without this critical mass,
politicians will remain stuck in the old paradigm of growth that
continues to erode the foundation of life-support systems on the planet.

To find evidence that our leaders are mired in the old paradigm, we
need look no further than the bank bailouts. Stimulus spending to get
the economy growing is not the change we need. We can certainly strive
for growth in some industries, such as solar energy, but it must be
accompanied by declines in others, such as fossil fuel energy. As we
sift through the rubble of our collapsed financial institutions, we
shouldn’t be looking at how to rebuild them into the same old
apparatus of growth. It’s the incessant growth, mostly in the form of
speculative bubbles, that caused the collapse in the first place.

Many policy changes can help us establish financial systems and an
economy that are sustainable. But the chances of enacting them are
miniscule until we can demonstrate that a broad base of the electorate
recognizes that perpetual exponential economic growth is not the path
to prosperity. Simply put, society has to demand the change before it
can occur. We need to take a position on economic growth and promote
the concept of the steady state economy on the streets of our
communities, in the halls of our governments, and in the corridors of
our businesses. With enough voices, we can jumpstart the transition to
a better economy.

Please sign the CASSE position on economic growth to voice support for
a prosperous, yet non-growing economy.

Robert Dietz,

Executive Director

Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy

The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) is
a U.S. nonprofit organization, and our mission is to advance the
steady state economy, with stabilized population and consumption, as a
policy goal with widespread public support.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.