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Sustainability and the economics of assuring assets for future generations

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  • Norgaard, Richard B.
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    Abstract

    This paper presumes the international discourse on the sustainability of development is concerned with: (a) the rights of future generations to the services of natural and produced assets; and (b) whether formal and informal institutions which affect the transfer of assets to future generations are adequate to assure the quality of life in the long-run. Sustainability is primarily an issue of intergenerational equity. The noneconomic discourse on sustainability is clearly about caring for the future. Conversely, this paper contests the implicit premises of economics as now practiced. First, in the face of the sustainability debate, many academic and practicing economists still assume that technology will offset resource depletion and environmental degradation. Second, existing theory on intertemporal resource allocation tacitly assumes that current generations hold all rights to assets and should efficiently exploit them. Third, there has been an implicit assumption that the mechanisms affecting the maintenance and transfer of assets to future generations are both working optimally and are unaffected by current economic decisions. This paper addresses each of these working premises of economics. It presents sociological explanations of how economics evolved to help identify how it became the way it is and to give perspective on how sustainability challenges the discipline.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 832.

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    Date of creation: 31 Jan 1992
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    Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:832

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    Related research

    Keywords: Environmental Economics&Policies; Economic Theory&Research; Health Economics&Finance; Development Economics&Aid Effectiveness; ICT Policy and Strategies;

    References

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    1. Dasgupta, Swapan & Mitra, Tapan, 1983. "Intergenerational Equity and Efficient Allocation of Exhaustible Resources," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 133-53, February.
    2. Hartwick, John M. & Kemp, Murray C. & Van Long, Ngo, 1986. "Set-up costs and theory of exhaustible resources," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 212-224, September.
    3. Hartwick, John M, 1978. "Substitution among Exhaustible Resources and Intergenerational Equity," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(2), pages 347-54, June.
    4. Farzin, Y Hossein, 1984. "The Effect of the Discount Rate on Depletion of Exhaustible Resources," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 92(5), pages 841-51, October.
    5. Norgaard, Richard B., 1989. "Three dilemmas of environmental accounting," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(4), pages 303-314, December.
    6. Richard Howarth & Richard Norgaard, 1993. "Intergenerational transfers and the social discount rate," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(4), pages 337-358, August.
    7. Solow, Robert M, 1974. "The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 1-14, May.
    8. Costanza, Robert, 1996. "The impact of ecological economics," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 1-2, October.
    9. Lind, Robert C., 1990. "Reassessing the government's discount rate policy in light of new theory and data in a world economy with a high degree of capital mobility," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages S8-S28, March.
    10. Slade, Margaret E., 1982. "Trends in natural-resource commodity prices: An analysis of the time domain," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 122-137, June.
    11. Norton, Bryan G., 1989. "Intergenerational equity and environmental decisions: A model using Rawls' veil of ignorance," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(2), pages 137-159, May.
    12. R. M. Solow, 1973. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustable Resources," Working papers 103, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
    13. Eckstein, Zvi & Stern, Steven & Wolpin, Kenneth I, 1988. "Fertility Choice, Land, and the Malthusian Hypothesis," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 29(2), pages 353-61, May.
    14. Halvorsen, Robert & Smith, Tim R, 1991. "A Test of the Theory of Exhaustible Resources," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 106(1), pages 123-40, February.
    15. Hall, Darwin C. & Hall, Jane V., 1984. "Concepts and measures of natural resource scarcity with a summary of recent trends," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 11(4), pages 363-379, December.
    16. Agbeyegbe, Terence D., 1989. "Interest rates and metal price movements: Further evidence," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 16(2), pages 184-192, March.
    17. Howarth, Richard B., 1991. "Intergenerational competitive equilibria under technological uncertainty and an exhaustible resource constraint," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 225-243, November.
    18. Cairns, Robert D, 1990. "A Contribution to the Theory of Depletable Resource Scarcity and Its Measures," Economic Inquiry, Western Economic Association International, vol. 28(4), pages 744-55, October.
    19. Norgaard, Richard B., 1990. "Economic indicators of resource scarcity: A critical essay," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 19-25, July.
    20. Ehrlich, Paul R., 1989. "The limits to substitution: Meta-resource depletion and a new economic-ecological paradigm," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 9-16, February.
    21. Norgaard, Richard B., 1981. "Sociosystem and ecosystem coevolution in the amazon," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 238-254, September.
    22. Berck, Peter, 1979. "Open Access and Extinction," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(4), pages 877-82, July.
    23. Norgaard, Richard B., 1985. "Environmental economics: An evolutionary critique and a plea for pluralism," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 12(4), pages 382-394, December.
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