Brian Czech and the logic of the steady state economy

Steady state Our physical growth will have to stop. It’s unsustainable. The earth is finite after all. That’s indisputable, isn’t it? Listen to Brian Czech talk about it in this radio interview. (You’ll need either to download it as an mp3, or to listen to it as a RealAudio file. For the latter, if you don’t have the RealOne player, just download Media Player Classic which is less problematic anyway and plays the same files.) Czech is the president of the Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy and author of Shoveling Fuel for a Runaway Train. He has established himself as an important figure in ecological economics, taking on the neoclassical economic model and macroeconomic theorists and their propaganda advocating limitless economic growth.

Economic growth, as Czech points out in the interview, involves a physical element. Now that’s a problem. It’s that indisputably unsustainable element. There is, says Czech, a “fundamental conflict between economic growth and environmental protection.” What’s more, large numbers of scientists from an array of disciplines have said we’ve reached the limits of growth. Czech says, therefore, what few others dare to — that we need an end to economic growth as we know it. (He carefully distinguishes between economic growth and economic development which involves qualitative rather than quantitative growth and so is not subject to the same limits.) As an alternative he offers the model of the steady state economy, an idea popularized, in part, by Herman Daly.

Explains Czech, “Just as economic growth is the predominant macroeconomic policy goal identified or implied by neoclassical economics, the steady state economy is the predominant macroeconomic policy goal identified or implied by ecological economics.” Specifically, it “connotes constant populations of people (and, therefore, “stocks” of labor) and constant stocks of capital. It also has a constant rate of throughput; i.e., energy and materials used to produce goods and services.”

Clearly, the ecological economics approach to an economy is sustainable. The the conventional, neoclassical approach is not.

The interview last 37 minutes. Try to listen at least to the first half. It’s well worth it.
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Image source (minus added text): markg6, posted on flickr under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

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5 responses to “Brian Czech and the logic of the steady state economy

  1. heh, last message is messed up for some reason. [Administrator’s note: I deleted it.] Anyway I was saying that I love educational mp3’s cuz they make the long drive to work productive instead a complete waste of gas and time!

  2. Yeah, it’s a pretty good interview despite some sound interference. Good for a long drive. 🙂 Brian Czech sent me some links to a few different videos, and I’ll likely feature a couple of those in future posts. One contains a nice outline of the rationale for the steady state economy, and lays out the concepts and their foundations very clearly.

  3. Pingback: The Voltage Gate

  4. A Modern Parable

    Author Unknown

    A Japanese company ( Toyota) and an American company (General Motors)
    Decided to have a canoe race on the Missouri River.
    Both teams practiced long and hard to reach their peak performance before the race.

    On the big day, the Japanese won by a mile.

    GM very discouraged and depressed, decided to investigate the
    Reason for the crushing defeat. A management team made up of senior
    Management was formed to investigate and recommend appropriate action.
    Their conclusion was the Japanese had 8 people rowing and 1 person
    Steering, while the American team had 8 people steering and 1 person
    Rowing.

    Feeling a deeper study was in order, American management hired a
    Consulting company and paid them a large amount of money for a second
    Opinion. They advised, of course, that too many people were steering the
    Boat, while not enough people were rowing.

    Not sure of how to utilize that information, but wanting to prevent
    Another loss to the Japanese, the rowing team’s management structure was
    Totally reorganized to 4 steering supervisors, 3 area steering
    Superintendents and 1 assistant superintendent steering manager.

    They also implemented a new performance system that would give the 1
    Person rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the
    “Rowing Team Quality First Program,” with meetings, dinners and free pens
    For the rower. There was discussion of getting new paddles, canoes and
    Other equipment, extra vacation days for practices and bonuses.

    The next year the Japanese won by two miles.

    Humiliated, the American management laid off the rower for poor
    Performance, halted development of a new canoe, sold the paddles, and
    Cancelled all capital investments for new equipment. The money saved was
    Distributed to the Senior Executives as bonuses and the next year’s racing
    Team was out-sourced to India.

    Sadly, The End.

    Sad, but oh so true! Here’s something else to think about: GM has spent
    The last thirty years moving all its factories out of the US, claiming they
    Can’t make money paying American wages.
    Toyota has spent the last thirty
    Years building more than a dozen plants inside the US . The last quarter’s
    Results: Toyota makes 4 billion in profits while GM racked up 9 billion
    In losses. GM folks are still scratching their heads. Don’t even think about Ford…..

  5. Pingback: Conservation groups speak out on problem of economic growth, and you can too! « Growth is Madness!