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Macroeconomics and the Environment

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy

Though scientists and environmentalists have long expressed concern over the rapid deterioration of the global environment, economists have largely failed to recognize the issue’s relevance to their field. Salah El Serafy argues for an increased focus on the economic aspects of environmental degradation, calling for a fundamental shift in how economists measure and discuss national income.
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Chapter 11: Hartwick’s contribution

Essays on Green Accounting

Salah El Serafy


The preceding chapter was devoted to misunderstandings of the user-cost method but John Hartwick merits special treatment for three reasons. First, he spent a great deal of time and effort analyzing my method and relating it to his own work, paying special attention to its antecedents; he had dug up my 1981 paper on ‘Absorptive capacity, the demand for revenue and the supply of petroleum’, which contained my user-cost formula. A second reason for devoting this chapter to him is that he is too important an environmental economist to share my foray against the national accountants and others named in the preceding chapter. Third, many people seem to have read his critique of my method and accepted his interpretations at face value. Some of his interpretations, I believe, distort my approach in important ways. On balance, however, the effect of his comments on my work has been positive for he brought the attention of a large audience to the user-cost method. Initially, his reactions to my ideas were affirmative, but gradually he came to temper his early enthusiasm with reservations.

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