Post Growth Reading List

Here are two lists for the post-growth, steady state economy. The first list is for those of you who haven’t done much reading or are new to the topics. I would suggest reading them for an introduction into steady state concepts and then move on to the more in-depth list. The second list is what I consider (so far) to be the top books/articles – the “must haves” on your post growth reading list and is an expanded companion to the introduction list.

If you only read 5, 10, or 16 books/articles about sustainable economics and post-growth thought these are my suggestions:

Introduction to Post Growth, Steady State Economics

  1. Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, by Brian Czech
  2. Thought Control in Economics, Adbusters Issue #85
  3. Deep Economy, by Bill Mckibben
  4. Prosperity Without Growth, report by Prof. Tim Jackson at the SDC (now a book)
  5. The Great Transition, report by New Economics Foundation

Further Post Growth Reading

There you have it. There are many other books/articles/blogs out there and I would definitely recommend you read as much as you can on anything that interests you. My problem usually lies in having more books to read than I have time to devote to them. I’m sure there are worse up-hill battles to be in, though.

Uneconomic Growth

“That which seems to be wealth may in verity be only the gilded index of far-reaching ruin”
John Ruskin

Herman Daly is often given credit for pioneering the term “Uneconomic Growth.”  It is a key term in ecological economics and Daly has given us numerous works on the subject. What is uneconomic growth? It is closely related to the optimal or sustainable scale of our economy.

When social or environment costs become larger than the benefits of more production and consumption growth is no longer economic. As Daly and Farley put it in their textbook Ecological Economics uneconomic growth happens when continued growth “costs us more than it is worth. A situation in which further expansion entails lost ecosystem services that are worth more than the extra production benefits of the expanded economy.”

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Sustainable Scale

Size Does Matter
Size Does Matter

Sustainability is quite the buzzword nowadays. What is sustainability anyway? It would appear at face value to have a simple, easily understood meaning. On the contrary, almost everything labeled “sustainable” is not, creating ambiguity in the meaning of the concept. It has become more of a marketing tool than an actual process. Being sustainable is quite different from what is typically called sustainable in our culture currently.

Something is sustainable if it can maintain balance with the system supporting it, and can do so indefinitely. A sustainable process takes only the amount of resources that can be regenerated by its supporting system between each processing cycle. Waste generated by a sustainable process can be absorbed by the surrounding system at the same rate it is created. Sound familiar? On a large scale, that’s the steady state economy.

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Adbusters #85: Thought Control in Economics

Buy This Magazine

85cover_tRead it – thoroughly – and then pass it on to another. Adbusters has endorsed the steady state economic before, quoting Herman Daly and citing the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy as well – but this is a full, cover-to-cover issue on the growing movement for a new, sustainable economy.

In this very well written, collaborative issue everything is tackled: from natural capital to your place in the revolution. Written in part as a guide to creating a movement, as well as a call to economic students everywhere, this is by far one of the best attention-getting new-economic publications I have seen so far. (Also, economic students can receive a free issue here)

Instead of drab, theoretical and college-level pamphlets or briefs this latest issue of Adbusters is that will smack you in the face. Hopefully we can use it to wake some of those neoclassical thinkers up. I particularly enjoy the simple, straight-forward means by which they show in the first section why growth is hurting us and our planet.

I urge you to buy this magazine, or borrow it, or get it from your library!

Development vs Growth

In a steady-state economy the focus is on development versus growth. As Herman Daly puts it, growth refers to “physical scale of the matter/energy throughput that sustains the economic activities of production and consumption of commodities.”  In other words, growth is the increasing of production and consumption of goods and services. This is a quantitative increase in scale. Development is a qualitative improvement of the same scale. A contained system (the Earth, for example) can develop inside but does not significantly grow. (Daly, Beyond Growth)

econecosystemWe live in a contained system, of which our economy is a large part of and, currently, the largest driving factor in changes within that system. In our system, we can choose to develop or “grow,” but our growth is limited by the constraints of that same system (e.g. Earth’s natural capital). If we change our focus to development, we will increase the quality of our lives (qualitative development) instead of the amount of production and consumption (quantitative growth).

As our system is right now, we are increasing the production and consumption, but decreasing the quality of our lives.

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