Long-run Growth, Social Institutions and Living Standards
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Long-run Growth, Social Institutions and Living Standards

Edited by Neri Salvadori and Arrigo Opocher

This engaging book contains a set of original contributions to the much-debated issues of long-run economic growth in relation to institutional and social progress.
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Chapter 14: Human Needs, Sustainable Development and Public Policy: Learning from K.W. Kapp (1910–1976)

Tommaso Luzzati


14. Human needs, sustainable development and public policy: learning from K.W. Kapp (1910– 1976) * Tommaso Luzzati 14.1. INTRODUCTION The role and extent of public intervention in the economy, more than any other topic, has polarized the various traditions of economic thought. Karl William Kapp (1910–1976) was among those who strongly advocated public intervention. However, his analysis and the prescriptions involved were rather peculiar. His approach was rooted in (old) institutionalism and his attention focused on economic development and its processes. He maintained that economic analysis and policy have to be centred on the satisfaction of human needs and ensure continuation of human life on Earth. He saw himself as an advocate of ‘rational humanism’. Ahead of his time, in the 1950s he was already aware that unregulated economic processes deeply impair the human environment (both the social and natural environment). Given these premises, he saw public intervention as being aimed at protecting the human environment, both in the short and long run. It must not be thought, however, that he suggested top-down/paternalistic methods for choosing goals, strategies and policies. On the contrary, he advocated a dialectic between ends and means, guided by the interplay between science and participatory processes. This chapter will outline K.W. Kapp’s position, with reference both to the analytical framework he elaborated and to one of its origins, Myrdal’s approach. The next section shortly introduces the life and works of Kapp. The third section focuses on circular cumulative causation, a notion that he mainly derived from...

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