The “steady state economy” attracts increasing interest these days. One could even say that finally a social movement away from perpetual economic growth evolves. What stands behind this concept and why is it drawing so much attention? The book “Enough is Enough”, which has recently been published by Rob Dietz and Dan O´Neill, provides some answers to this:
The concept of steady state economy has been introduced by Hermann Daly in 1991. He defines the steady state economy as “an economy with constant stocks of people and artifacts, maintained at some desired, sufficient levels by low rates of maintenance ‘throughput’, that is, by the lowest feasible flows of matter and energy from the first stage of production to the last stage of consumption.”1
This stands in contrast to the classical doctrine of economy, which assumes that economic growth can increase infinitely. However, economic activities lead to a bunch of environmental problems we face today: Production consumes natural resources, which are known to be limited and therefore future generations will not have access to these resources. Furthermore, production (as it is designed at the moment) pollutes and changes the environment, which leads to biodiversity loss and climate change. These changes cause the decline of basic requirements we have for a good living: clean water, fresh air and healthy soils. Monetary wealth seems an inadequate substitute for a good life and the authors allocate it to the readers to think about what makes a good living.
Politicians usually emphasize economic growth as a desirable development goal for the countries they serve. Instead of focusing on more, a more modest and more sustainable solution for them would be to focus on stable and realistic ways of economic activities. I am looking forward to reading Tim Jackson´s “Prosperity without growth” next.
1Daly, Herman. 1991. Steady-State Economics, 2nd edition. Island Press, Washington, DC. p.17.