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to a level sustainable by "organic agriculture", however he defines that.

"ENERGY AND ECONOMIC MYTHS", Southern Economic Journal - 1975 January, Volume 41, Number 3

... This vision of a blissful world in which both population and capital stock remain constant, once expounded with his usual skill by John Stuart Mill [64, Bk. 4, Ch. 6], was until recently in oblivion.47  Because of the spectacular revival of this myth of ecological salvation, it is well to point out its various logical and factual snags. The crucial error consists in not seeing that not only growth, but also a zero-growth state, nay, even a declining state which does not converge toward annihilation, cannot exist forever in a finite environment. The error perhaps stems from some confusion between finite stock and finite flow rate, as the incongruous dimensionalities of several graphs suggest [62, 62, 64f, 124ff; 6, 6].  And contrary to what some advocates of the stationary state claim [Daly, Herman E. The Stationary-State Economy. Distinguished Lecture Series No. 2, Department of Economics, University of Alabama, 1971., 15], this state does not occupy a privileged position vis-a-vis physical laws.


In a stationary state, too, people may be busy in the fields and shops all day long. Whatever the state, free time for intellectual progress depends on the intensity of the pressure of population on resources.  Therein lies the main weakness of Mill's vision. Witness the fact that -- as Daly explicitly admits [Daly, Herman E. The Stationary-State Economy. Distinguished Lecture Series No. 2, Department of Economics, University of Alabama, 1971., 6-8] -- its writ offers no basis for determining even in principle the optimum levels of population and capital.  This brings to light the important, yet unnoticed point, that the necessary conclusion of the arguments in favor of that vision is that the most desirable state is not a stationary, but a declining one.

Undoubtedly, the current growth must cease, nay, be reversed. ...


Justus von Liebig observed that "civilization is the economy of power".[Georgescu-Roegen, Nicholas. The Entropy Law and the Economic Process. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1971., 304]  At the present hour, the economy of power in all its aspects calls for a turning point. Instead of continuing to be opportunistic in the highest degree and concentrating our research toward finding more economically efficient ways of tapping mineral energies - all in finite supply and all heavy pollutants - we should direct all our efforts toward improving the direct uses of solar energy - the only clean and essentially unlimited source. Already-known techniques should without delay be diffused among all people so that we all may learn from practice and develop the corresponding trade. <...>

It would be foolish to propose a complete renunciation of the industrial comfort of the exosomatic evolution. Mankind will not return to the cave or, rather, to the tree. But there are a few points that may be included in a minimal bioeconomic program. ...

... Third, mankind should gradually lower its population to a level that could be adequately fed only by organic agriculture.66  Naturally, the nations now experiencing a very high demographic growth will have to strive hard for the most rapid possible results in that direction. ...

... Fifth, we must cure ourselves of the morbid craving for extravagant gadgetry, splendidly illustrated by such a contradictory item as the golf cart, and for such mammoth splendors as two-garage cars.  Once we do so, manufacturers will have to stop manufacturing such "commodities."

Sixth, we must also get rid of fashion, of "that disease of the human mind," as Abbot Fernando Galliani characterized it in his celebrated Della moneta (1750). It is indeed a disease of the mind to throw away a coat or a piece of furniture while it can still perform its specific service. To get a "new" car every year and to refashion the house every other is a bioeconomic crime. Other writers have already proposed that goods be manufactured in such a way as to be more durable [e.g. Hibbard, Walter R., Jr., "Mineral Resources: Challenge or Threat?" Science, 12 April 1968, 143-145., 146]. But it is even more important that consumers should reeducate themselves to despise fashion. Manufacturers will then have to focus on durability.


Will mankind listen to any program that implies a constriction of its addiction to exosomatic comfort? Perhaps, the destiny of man is to have a short, but fiery, exciting and extravagant life rather than a long, uneventful and vegetative existence.  Let other species -- the amoebas, for example -- which have no spiritual ambitions inherit an earth still bathed in plenty of sunshine

47In International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, for example, the point is mentioned only in passing.

66To avoid any misinterpretation, I should add that the present fad for organic foods has nothing to do with this proposal, which is based only on the reasons expounded in Section X.

His italics, my bold.

The point is not to be right, but to get to right.

by marco on Wed Apr 14th, 2010 at 05:26:36 PM EST
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