From a Failed-Growth Economy to a Steady-State Economy

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Media Type: Article - Foundational

Date of Publication: March 2010

Year of Publication: 2010

Author(s): Herman Daly

Journal: Solutions

Volume: Volume 1, Issue 2

Pages: Page 37-43

Categories: ,


A steady-state economy is incompatible with continuous growth—either positive or negative growth. The goal of a steady state is to sustain a constant, sufficient stock of real wealth and people for a long time. A downward spiral of negative growth, a depression such as we are entering now, is a failed-growth economy, not a steady-state economy. Halting an accelerating downward spiral is necessary but is not the same thing as resuming continuous positive growth. The growth economy now fails in two ways: (1) positive growth becomes uneconomic in our full-world economy; (2) negative growth, resulting from the bursting of financial bubbles inflated beyond physical limits, though temporarily necessary, soon becomes self-destructive. That leaves a non-growing or steady-state economy as the only long-run alternative. The level of physical wealth that the biosphere can sustain in a steady state may well be below the present level. The fact that recent efforts at growth have resulted mainly in bubbles suggests that this is so. Nevertheless, current policies all aim for the full re-establishment of the growth economy. No one denies that our problems would be easier to solve if we were richer. The question is, does growth still make us richer, or is it now making us poorer?

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