Steady State Economy: An Overview

The Steady State Economy requires a shift in our focus as a culture, but what policies are actually developed and what are the fundamentals of this new paradigm? There are three main parts to a steady state economy: sustainable scale, fair distribution, and efficient allocation. The following are the definitions given by the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE):

Sustainable Scale

“The most important characteristic of a steady state economy, sustainable scale is achieved when the economy fits within the capacity of the Earth’s ecosystems.  Economic activity degrades ecosystems, interfering with natural processes that are critical to various life support services.  The unprecedented growth of economic activity has significantly shifted the balance with potentially disastrous consequences.  This is why getting the scale of the economy right (technically the point at which the marginal costs of growth equal the marginal benefits) is the highest priority for a steady state economy.”

Fair Distribution

“Since continuous growth and sustainable scale are incompatible, growth cannot be relied upon to alleviate poverty, as has been done (ineffectively) in the past.  If the pie isn’t getting any bigger, we need to cut and distribute the pieces in a fair way.  In addition, poor people who have trouble meeting basic needs tend not to care about sustainability, and excessively rich people tend to consume unsustainable quantities of resources.  Fair distribution of wealth, therefore, is a critical part of sustainability and the steady state economy.” (sometimes referred to as “Just Distribution”)

Efficient Allocation

“The conventional neoclassical school of economic thought focuses almost exclusively on efficient allocation of scarce resources.  The dominant thinking is that free and competitive markets, along with prices driven by supply and demand, result in efficient allocation of goods and services (in the absence of pesky, omnipresent externalities).  Efficient allocation is also important in a steady state economy – ecological economists support many market strategies to accomplish efficient allocation of resources – but only after achieving sustainable scale and fair distribution.  Efficient allocation, although a valid criterion for managing and using resources, means very little in an unsustainable or unjust economic system. ”

Steady State Economy Discussion

I will be going into more detail about the basics of the steady state economy as well as discussing the many other aspects of a steady state (i.e. what does this mean to our monetary system? how do we move from a growth economy to a steady state economy? what policies must we institute to provide a sustainable economy to our children?).

Please feel free to interject with opinions, ideas, and feedback as we take a look into the details of steady state economy!

Get the Word Out!

While trying to transition this blog onto a new platform, I will also be starting a new phase in my posts. Over the next few months I intend to move from the generalities of steady-state economics to the specifics; that is, we know that it’s good, but how do we get there and what does it actual entail? Well, we’ll start delving into the transition and the beautiful life on the other side of the transition.

To start that transition we need to talk policy and public opinion. I’ve posted before about pushing for political change, now it’s time we start taking actual action in that arena. One SSR-follower, Allen, has been writing to magazines and newspapers. With his permission, I’m posting a copy of his letter as an example of the types of pro-active work everyone of us could (and should) be doing. Please take this as an example and alter this type of letter to fit your recipient.

Continue reading “Get the Word Out!”

The Political Push for a Steady State

These few first days of the president’s term in office have many people thinking. I am wondering what is being done for a moral economy, one that focuses on more than just “bailing-out” a broken system? The economy is so much more than our jobs and our money. The affects of our economy are felt on everything…

People are starving in countries where you cannot grown corn (or wheat, or rice, et cetera) to compete with the world market. Why? Because our government (and other industrialized governments) subsidizes corn so much that it can be sold at below it’s actual cost of production. On top of that, aid to countries in need of food is often too little too late because of our highly inept aid policies, which are corrupted with profits for agribusiness and shipping companies and little actual aid.

Continue reading “The Political Push for a Steady State”

Your Dollar Counts. Really Counts.

You may believe that a steady-state economy cannot happen. Or perhaps you have doubts about it’s full-fledged ability to “rule” as the new standard. Whatever the case, you are still a consumer to some extent, right? We still need to eat, you still need clothes, you still need certain things to conduct a happy life (regardless of whether you like the idea of needing stuff for happiness). Sometimes it is difficult to not buy the new and improved computer for work (or play)…

This underlying need to buy food, clothing, and other essentials (arguably, the computer is not really essential) – these are the very things that will keep our economy moving, especially as we transition into a sustainable economy.

Continue reading “Your Dollar Counts. Really Counts.”

Citizen or Consumer?

I have often asked myself if the growth-centered economy is really the best thing for the world. Recently I began to do a little light reading on the subject of a steady-state economy. I have come to believe that this is the only sustainable economy we can have if we wish to have any economy at all into the foreseeable future.

In fact, we have already begun to see the drastic devastation greed-oriented, growth-centered capitalism can give to the world: the natural destruction done by our consumption addiction, the corporate rule of American politics, the change from community-oriented living, working, and business to community-devoid living with large, one-stop-shop mega centers. And now a more publicly apparent and glaring consequences: the global financial crisis and global climate change.

Arguably, the relationship for of the desire of growth may not be the (only) thing that lead to the current financial crisis. However, do some reading about local economies (you know, the ones that should be feeding you, providing you with good and services). See the difference in food from a farmers market and a Wal-Mart supercenter – then you shall truly see the benefit of a focus on local economies – better quality.

In a steady-state economy the growth comes not in the form GDP, but growth in quality of life. The growth comes from development within our system, not expansion of the system as a whole. This is a qualitative improvement (development), not a quantitative change (growth).

I believe that a sustainable, steady-state economy can help solve the problems poverty, hunger, and save our environment. It will encourage local businesses and economies, not conglomerates that have enough wealth to buy the government (or pay them to look the other way while bad practices are enacted).

Don’t believe me? Read!!!

  • Deep Economy, by Bill McKibben (well-written, up-lifting book about the topic)
  • Beyond Growth, by Herman Daly (one of the foremost man on the topic of a steady-state economy)
  • Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train, by Brian Czech (this book inspired me to start this blog)
  • SteadyState.org (a great wealth of information and more books)

Or, don’t educate yourself. Be a mindless drone that believes everything you hear. It’s always up to you. Be a Citizen, not a Consumer!