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Edited by Jeroen C.J.M. van den Bergh
Chapter 43: A Pro-growth Perspective
Wilfved Beckerman 1. Economic growth versus the environment: sources of concern Economists see environmental problems as arising primarily because the environment is a scarce resource which tends to be used up more than is socially optimal on account of various types of market failure. So whilst they will differ on details, almost all economists would be in favour of policies designed to minimize these market failures and to give due weight to environmental protection in policy formation. But many non-economists (and a few economists) believe that there are additional reasons for concern about the environment, and that the main environmental problems facing us today call for far more drastic action and of a different character - than most economists would advocate. This is often based on the view that the environment has more than purely instrumental value, and that it also has some intrinsic value of one kind or another, such as a spiritual or ethical value, or some ‘higher’ value that is not commensurate with the monetary values entering into standard economic analysis (Anderson, 1993). A closely related view is that continued economic growth is undesirable, on the grounds that it does not increase welfare (defined one way or the other). Indeed, it is often argued that growth reduces welfare and that the ‘costs’ of economic growth include a deterioration in the ‘quality of life’. As well as scepticism about the desirability of continued economic growth, doubts have frequently been expressed concerning its feasibility. This is much more a...
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