From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy

From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy

Advances in Ecological Economics series

Herman E. Daly

In this important book, Herman E. Daly lays bare the weaknesses of growth economics and explains why, in contrast, a steady-state economy is both necessary and desirable. Through the course of the book, Daly develops the basic concept and theory of a steady-state economy from the 1970s limits to growth debates. In doing so, he draws on work from the classical economists, through both conflicts and agreements with neo-classical and Keynesian economists, as well as recent debates on uneconomic growth.

Chapter 7: Moving from a failed growth economy to a steady-state economy

Herman E. Daly

Subjects: development studies, agricultural economics, development economics, economics and finance, development economics, environmental economics, environment, ecological economics


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, is a failed growth economy, not a steady-state economy. Halting a 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 nongrowing or steady-state economy as the only long-run alternative. The level of physical wealth that the biosphere can sustain in a steady state is almost certainly below the present level. The fact that recent efforts at growth have resulted mainly in bubbles is evidence that this is so. Nevertheless, current policies all aim for the full reestablishment of the growth economy. No one denies that our problems would be easier to solve if we were richer. That rich is better than poor is a definitional truism. The question is, does growth any longer make us richer, or is it now making us poorer? I will spend a few more minutes cursing the darkness of growth, but will then try to light 10 little candles along the path to a steady state. Some advise me to forget the darkness and focus on the policy candles.

You are not authenticated to view the full text of this chapter or article.

Elgaronline requires a subscription or purchase to access the full text of books or journals. Please login through your library system or with your personal username and password on the homepage.

Non-subscribers can freely search the site, view abstracts/ extracts and download selected front matter and introductory chapters for personal use.

Your library may not have purchased all subject areas. If you are authenticated and think you should have access to this title, please contact your librarian.

Further information