What is a Steady State?

by Joshua on March 4, 2009 · 8 comments

A steady state economy is one focused on better, not biggerqualitative growth instead of quantitative growth. We will have to get beyond growth as a society in order to realize a sustainable future. (For more, see Why Do We Need A Steady State Economy?)

This type of economy is classified by ecological economists as a “steady state economy.” This is not to imply that it would be stagnant – far from it. A more technical definition is “dynamic equilibrium of the macro-economy at a sustainable scale.” Just as a forest does not need to get exponentially bigger, our economy would function within the biophysical limits of the ecosystem. The forest is alive, always changing, always developing – but it’s overall dimensions do not change.

The Steady State Economy

A Steady-State Economy is a sustainable, non-growth-centered economy. It is not communism or even the end of capitalism. It is simply a change of our focus: from bigger to better, quantitative expansion to qualitative development.

A Steady State Economy changes the focus from economic growth to societal development (e.g. democracy, community, equal rights, fair wages, et cetera); from acquiring so much wealth we don’t know what to do with it all to ensuring everyone has enough money to live a comfortable life; from working 40-plus hours a week to pay down debt to working 20-30 hours a week to live well (because people keep out of debt).

There are four main concepts or pillars of the steady state economy:

  • Sustainable Scale: Creating an economy that can maintain it’s production and consumption on a level at or below the Earth’s ability to renew resources and absorb waste. It’s simply making the economy sustainable.
  • Fair Distribution: A steady state economy must not simply be sustainable from a biophysical standpoint, but also from a social standpoint. Creating the means to allow everyone the capacity to flourish is drastically important to a secure, stable and prosperous economy.
  • Efficient Allocation: The more efficient our economy functions the better use of resources and time we can allocate. As with any economy, the market is not perfect and we must take into account the externalities that harm our society’s ability to use resources wisely and efficiently.
  • High Quality of Life: What is the true purpose of creating a society and economy if not to give us a high quality of life? In a steady state economy this is not a weak side effect of the economy but an actual goal and purpose of the economy. When we stop focusing on growth we can focus on making our lives better, for everyone.

Read more about the Steady State Economy by reading my posts, going to the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, checking out the resource section or reading some books. Let’s band together and Start a Steady State Revolution!