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The Steady State Economy

by Phil Jones, 11-12-13

The existence of a growing number of chapters of the Centre for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy including one in NSW reflects a concern about our future. A Steady State Economy is one which is relatively stable in its processes: a total reliance on renewable energy sources, stable human population, little or no mining, extensive recycling and repair industries and an equitable sharing of employment opportunities. A Steady State Economy has a natural parallel with a stable natural ecosystem such as a forest, pond or reef community. “Can we have infinite economic growth on a planet with finite resources?” While the self evident answer is “no”, a dilemma remains; if not growth, then what?

While “sustainable” and “sustainability” have emerged and gained widespread acceptance it is a language that has an inbuilt problem. Expressions such as “sustainable growth” and “a sustainable mine” are now used. More “sustainable” is now used as an alternative to increase efficiency or is equated to savings measure.

The Steady State Economy can be described as the “economy we have to have”. Conflicts between environmentalist and those who call for increase access to natural resources in order to provide job opportunities seem to be growing in number. Just how close the world is to the limits of growth is a debatable point. The fact that we are constantly getting closer to the time is not.

Moving to the Steady State Economy from the Growth Economy demands a Copernican Revolution in economic thinking. It is a transition that on ethical considerations ought to be planned for and not simply allow to emerge after a collapse.

It is really the greatest social justice issue of our day. Recession or depression is the result of the application of conventional economic thinking to this problem. But unlike the Great Depression when unemployment was reduced by post war growth, such a solution cannot be relied upon once the limits to growth have been reached. Moreover, the suffering a misery that it would create would dwarf those of any previous crisis. It has been suggested that this is the present situation in a number of countries in Europe. The need to share income gaining opportunities needs to be widely recognised by all sector of society. The failure to adjust to a Steady State Society will also affect those dependent on superannuation and social services payments. It would appear the height of social irresponsibility to fail to call for a planned transition to the Steady State Economy from our business, political, academic and union leaders.


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