Interview: The Irrationality of Homo Economicus
what if economics is to move away from being a self-centred academic discipline interested only in working out the consequences of its own assumptions and if it's to engage itself more in the world. And we argued that you have to shift from Homo economicus as the isolated individual to the idea of person in community, whose identity is largely a function of his relationships in community with others and with the ecosystem. So that this community perspective of social and ecological interdependence is critical - and for the future.
Sustainable Development: Definitions, Principles, Policies [pdf]
[Speech to the World Bank:] Reducing poverty is indeed the basic goal of development, as the World Bank now commendably proclaims. But it cannot be attained by growth for two reasons. First, because growth in GDP has begun to increase environmental and social costs faster than it increases production benefits. Such uneconomic growth makes us poorer, not richer. Second, because even truly economic growth cannot increase welfare once we are, at the margin, producing goods and services that satisfy mainly relative rather than absolute wants. If welfare is mainly a function of relative income then aggregate growth is selfcanceling in its effect on welfare.Steady-State Economics
The first question asked of any critic of the status quo is: What would you put in place? In place of the growth economy we would put a steady-state economy. But such a theoretical alternative is not of great interest unless there is dissatisfaction with the business-as-usual growth economy. If you have eaten poison, it is not enough to simply resume eating healthful foods. You must get rid of the specific substances that are making you ill. Let us, then, apply the stomach pump to the doctrines of economic growth that we have been force-fed for the past four decades. Perhaps the best way to do that is to jump right into the growth debate and consider critically some fifteen to twenty general pro growth arguments that recur in various guises and either expose their errors or accommodate their valid criticisms.Speaking of growth and inequality, I also recommend this interesting essay [dead URL], which offers a very thorough critique of the current measures of inequality.
the problem of world poverty is both amazingly small and amazingly large. It is amazingly small in economic terms: The aggregate shortfall from the World Bank’s $2/day poverty line of all those 40 percent of human beings who now live below this line is barely $300 billion annually, much less than what the United States spends on its military. This amounts to only 0.7 percent of the global product or less than 1 percent of the combined GNIs of the high-income countries. On the other hand, the problem of world poverty is amazingly large in human terms, accounting for a third of all human deaths and the majority of human deprivation, morbidity, and suffering worldwide.I exchanged several emails with the author (Pogge), and our agreement broke down over the "exchange rate" between efficiency and equity, aka, the pie and how to divide it. While everyone agrees that making the pie bigger is good (in a sustainable way -- see above), the difficulty comes in redistribution and the incentives that redistribution encourages. While I may be willing to give up one unit of "things I like" so that a "poorer" person could get 5 units of things she likes, would I give up four units? From my understanding of Pogge's email comments, ANY redistribution from rich to poor is defensible. For me, it is not: First, because things we have are sometimes earned. Second, because incentives to work or struggle fall when egalitarian redistribution is in the cards. (And we saw where "from each according to his abilities, to each according to his wants" took us...)
Bottom Line: Our economic system and ideology does not do a very good job at protecting the losers -- whether they be Nature, future generations or the poor. "Growing the pie" is hardly the solution when many benefits are possible from a wiser re-distribution of the pie. The tricky part is undoing the unfair, dumb and unsustainable distributions that we live with now -- within the U.S., within poorer countries and between countries.