Book Review: From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy by Herman E. Daly.

AuthorHartwig, Richard
PositionBook review

Daly, Herman E. From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy. Northampton: Edward Elgar, 2014. xii + 253 pages. Hardcover, $120.00.

Herman Daly, Emeritus Professor at the University of Maryland, is one of the founding fathers of the field of ecological economics. The book, From Uneconomic Growth to a Steady-State Economy, is a compilation of Daly's writings from 1972 to 2014. The book begins with articles published in standard journals of economics, and ends with short, editorial-style essays written after 2010. Over time, Daly's work progressively moved outside of the paradigm of standard economics, including environmental economics, and the 2016 book, entitled Beyond Uneconomic Growth: Economics, Equity and the Ecological Predicament, which is edited by Joshua Farley and Deepak Malghan, is largely a tribute to Daly.

The basic argument of Daly's writings is that growth measured by an increase in the Gross National Product (GNP) should not be considered an indicator of progress in developed countries. This logic will be familiar to those who know the 1972 book The Limits to Growth by Meadows, Meadows, Randers and Behrens, and its many subsequent editions. Daly makes a sharp distinction between GNP growth and progress:

Growth means larger jaws and a bigger digestive tract for more rapidly converting more resources into more waste, in the service of frequently destructive individual wants. Development means better digestion of a nongrowing throughput, and more worthy and satisfying goals to which our life energies could be devoted. Development without growth beyond the Earth's carrying capacity is true progress. (p. 71)

As an example, Daly explains that global warming is a primary symptom of uneconomic growth which may lead us all to disaster.

Ecological economists see the economy as a subsystem of the ecosystem. Daly is highly critical of neoclassical--as opposed to classical--economics and argues that capital cannot be substituted for finite natural resources. For Daly, an emphasis on GNP growth is highly ideological: "The elite-owned media, the corporate-funded think tanks, the kept economists of high academia, and the World Bank--all sing hymns to growth in perfect unison, and bamboozle average citizens" (p. 54). Daly contends that we should regulate international commerce and downgrade the World Trade Organization, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. He argues that progress should be measured by indices such as the...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT