Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter I.: Miscellaneous
There may well be a better name than ‘steady-state economy’, but both the classical economists (especially John Stuart Mill) and the past few decades of discussion, not to mention the good work of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady-State Economy, have given considerable currency to ‘steady-state economy’ both as a concept and name. Also both the name and concept of a ‘steady state’ are independently familiar to demographers, population biologists, and physicists. The classical economists used the term ‘stationary state’ but meant by it exactly what we mean by steady-state economy – briefly, a constant population and stock of physical wealth. We have added the condition that these stocks should be maintained constant by a low rate entropic throughput, one that is well within the regenerative and assimilative capacities of the ecosystem. Any new name for this idea should be sufficiently better to compensate for losing the advantages of historical continuity and interdisciplinary familiarity. Also, steady-state economy conveys the recognition of biophysical constraints and the intention to live within them economically – which is exactly why it cannot help evoking some initial negative reaction in a growth-dominated world. There is an honesty and forthright clarity about the term ‘steady-state economy’ that should not be sacrificed to the short-term political appeal of vagueness.
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