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Frontier Issues in Ecological Economics

Frontier Issues in Ecological Economics

Philip Lawn

Ecological economics formally emerged in the late 1980s in response to the failure of mainstream economic paradigms to deal adequately with the interdependence of social, economic and ecological systems. Frontier Issues in Ecological Economics focuses on a range of cutting-edge issues in the field of ecological economics and outlines plausible measures to achieve a more sustainable, just, and efficient world for all.

Chapter 10: On the Independence of the Sustainability, Distribution and Efficiency Goals

Philip Lawn

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


10. On the independence of the sustainability, distribution and efficiency goals INTRODUCTION Having now considered the critical role of natural capital and the importance of sustainable development indicators in guiding a nation’s transition towards a steady-state economy, Part IV deals with a number of additional theoretical and policy issues central to achieving sustainable development. The first of these issues relates to the hot debate that has raged amongst some ecological economists over the independence or otherwise of the three policy goals of allocative efficiency, distributional equity and ecological sustainability. The debate has simmered since Daly’s 1992 thesis entitled ‘Allocation, distribution, and scale: towards an economics that is efficient, just, and sustainable’. While these policy goals are not strictly independent as originally claimed, I believe they are sufficiently distinct for their simultaneous resolution to require, as Daly has argued, each of the policy goals to be addressed by the imposition of a separate policy instrument. As such, the aim of this chapter is to provide support for Daly’s sustainable development thesis. It does this by focusing attention on Daly’s 1992 paper, the 1999 reply by Daly to Stewen’s 1998 criticism of Daly’s thesis, and Stewen’s (1999) subsequent response to Daly’s reply. HERMAN DALY’S ORIGINAL THESIS AND THE SUBSEQUENT RESPONSES In 1992, Daly argued that the policy goals of allocative efficiency, distributional equity and ecological sustainability are independent. In keeping with a policy absolutism discovered by Tinbergen (1952), Daly pointed out that, for the three policy goals...

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