Slower by Design, Not Disaster
- Advances in Ecological Economics series
Chapter 3: Systems, Information and Prices
3. Systems, information and prices the mainstream discipline [of economics] has not . . . asked what types of information the price system systematically marginalizes or excludes, nor the consequences of these exclusions. (Babe 2002) Conceptualizing the economy, society and environment as nested systems as illustrated in Figure 2.2 reveals much that is important for understanding the economy and its dependence on a wider world. Modern, dynamic economies continually put pressure on the social and natural systems on which they rely. What is less clear from Figure 2.2 is how these other systems respond and adapt to this pressure and the eﬀect of these responses on the economy. There are positive and negative feedbacks in play in all these systems and at all levels. These feedback loops determine how systems function and how they respond to external pressures. Fundamental to any feedback loop is the information that drives it. For example, a thermostat used to maintain room temperature at a particular level works by comparing information about the current room temperature with the desired level. If the temperature is too high the thermostat switches the heating oﬀ. If it is too low, the thermostat switches the heating on. It should be obvious that if the information fed to the thermostat is not accurate then the desired room temperature will not be maintained. Accurate information is extremely important for any system to function well. Although they are not shown in Figure 2.2 there are feedback loops in all three of the systems: economy,...
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