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The Economics of Nature and the Nature of Economics

Edited by Cutler J. Cleveland, David I. Stern and Robert Costanza

This book discusses important recent developments in the theory, concepts and empirical applications of ecological economics and sustainable development. The editors have assembled a fascinating collection of papers from some of the leading scholars in the field of ecological economics.
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Chapter 6: The need for a new growth paradigm

Robert U. Ayres


Robert U. Ayres INTRODUCTION The title of this chapter is obviously intended to provoke questions. Does the need for a new paradigm mean that an old one must be discarded? What does ‘growth paradigm’ mean? Is the chapter about the end of growth? Is it about ‘limits to growth’ in the sense of the 1970s debate? Or is it, perhaps, about the nature of a hypothetical ‘no growth’ or ‘steady state’ society, and some of the implications of such a society? The answer to all of these questions is no. Probably some readers will assume that this is another neo-Malthusian antigrowth tract. It is not. Quite the contrary, I believe that economic growth is both possible and essential for social and political reasons, if no other. The question I want to address is: what has gone wrong with the old formula and how can (must) it change? The economic growth engine, as it operates today, is running amok. Economic growth in most of the world is so inequitable that by far the largest share of the benefits is being appropriated by a tiny group of those who were already rich or well-connected, or by corrupt military officers. The so-called ‘Asian Miracle’ was touted as growth with equity, but the collapse has revealed a very different reality. Worse, globalization led by the multinational corporations leaves an increasing part of the population – and most of the population in many parts of the world – with little prospect of benefit, either now or in...

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