A fellow named Zeke Hausfather has showed up on the globalchange list and is saying a lot of interesting things. At last I am getting some glimmer of an idea that some sort of sensible discussion is happening in some corner of economics. I hope this leads to some substantive reading at some point.
In the discussion (unfortunately marred by a moderator’s error as you will see) on the Rolling Stone article aboout the “Secret Campaign to Deny Global Warming”, Zeke offers the summary that there is a
fundamental divide in the community of economists studying environmental matters; namely whether unlimited growth is possible coupled with a dematerialization of the economy, or if we need to aim for a more “steady state” solution. This question largely divides Ecological Economists from Environmental Economists
which seems like a very good place to start. Much better than what we usually see, about “correctly discounting the future” and such.
I’m not sure which side I will find mroe attractive, but I am inclined to a belief that “unlimited growth is possible” as a designed feature. This is not because I believe that the quantities that have been growing, historically, are all that useful. Rather it is because I don’t think the growing quantity is very meaningful at all.
If all of our systems are predicated on the increase of an arbitrary quantity, by all means let us try to arrange to gradually redefine it so that it tends to increase!
In other words, I see the “environmental” (vs “ecological”; what awful nomenclature) position as achievable by design as a retrofit, and preferable to revolutionary change in the economy on the one hand or ever-hotter flirtation with catastrophe on the other. The real economy, which will seek sustainability and serenity, will have to ride atop this artifact, but we won’t need to unplug it!
Am I making sense? I wonder.