Posted by: jmtoriel | April 17, 2009

The Need for a Steady State Economy

What is a Steady State Economy?

Evidence suggests that the resources and natural systems of our planet cannot sustain unlimited economic expansion based on consumption. We should not use renewable resources faster than the ecosystem can replace them. Nonrenewable resources should be used no faster than renewable substitutes can be developed. Waste and pollution should not exceed a sustainable level of absorption.

A steady state economy does not depend on growth so it presents an economic model more consistent with sustainability. In a steady state economy, productivity per worker (outputs) and capital required per worker (inputs) remain equal over time.

Jobs in a Steady State Economy

Nothing about a steady state economy precludes economic development. Various sectors may come and go in a steady state economy. For example, organic farms may supplant factory farms, the proportion of bicycles to Humvees may increase, and professional soccer may attract more fans while NASCAR attracts fewer. As long as the physical size of the economy remains constant in the long run, a developing economy is a steady state economy. The emphasis is on quality of life, not constant growth (which on a finite planet- such as ours- cannot persist).

Economic development continues so that in the extractive sector, oilfield roughnecks may decrease in number while wind power facility attendants may increase. In the sciences, industrial chemists may be replaced by wildlife ecologists and stream restoration technicians.

Steady state economies foster creating value-added work and local and regional business and industry which become the engine of that job creation (green-collar jobs). This could also be considered a thriving economy. So,  instead of a tree clear-cutting industry for mass export, we would foster vertically integrated forest management, cutting and manufactured wood products industries for use in the local and regional economy (eliminating raw log exports would assist in this).

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