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 9: Incorporating values in a bottom-line ecological economy

Herman E. Daly

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


Values are different from tastes. Tastes are personal and subjective. They belong to the private sphere of our life. Values, in contrast, are impersonal and objective. They belong to the public sphere. We all have a right to our own individual tastes, but not to our own individual values or our own individual facts. Of course, relativists will deny this, claiming that we all have the right to determine values for ourselves. Some postmodernists would even allow us to construct and deconstruct our own facts. Such license in choosing our own values and facts eliminates the basis for affirming the objective truth of anything, including relativism, and is therefore self-contradictory. Ecological economics has inherited the same value presupposition from both of its parents, making it quite a strong legacy. This is the idea that individual selfishness and competitive struggle lead to the greater collective good. From economics, beginning with Adam Smith, comes the ‘invisible hand’. From biology, via ecology, comes Darwin’s natural selection of the best adapted individuals in the face of competition for the limited means of subsistence forced by Malthusian population pressure. In part, these are two factual insights into how the world works, rather than the affirmation of a value. Competition is a fact. But in both cases the lamentable fact is blessed by its valued consequences – market efficiency and evolutionary progress. There are other traditions both in economics and biology that are contrary to the selfishness emphasis.

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