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Sustainability, Optimality, and Development Policy

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  • Y. Hossein Farzin

Abstract

Considering sustainability a matter of intergenerational welfare equity, this paper examines whether an optimal development path can also be sustainable. It argues that the general "zero-net-aggregate-investment" condition for an optimal development path to be sustainable in the sense of the maximin criterion of intergenerational justice is too demanding to be practical, especially in the context of developing countries. It further argues that while the maximin criterion of sustainability may be appealing to the rich advanced industrial countries, for the poor developing countries it implies equalization of poverty across generations, and as such is too costly a moral obligation to be acceptable. The paper suggests that a compromise development policy that follows the optimal growth approach but adopts certain measures to mitigate both the intergenerational and intragenerational welfare inequalities may be more appropriate for these countries. Some of the principal elements of such a policy are highlighted. Copyright © 2010 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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  • Y. Hossein Farzin, 2010. "Sustainability, Optimality, and Development Policy," Review of Development Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 14(2), pages 262-281, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:rdevec:v:14:y:2010:i:2:p:262-281
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    Cited by:

    1. Frederick van der Ploeg, 2011. "Natural Resources: Curse or Blessing?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 49(2), pages 366-420, June.
    2. van der Ploeg, Frederick, 2006. "Challenges and Opportunities for Resource Rich Economies," CEPR Discussion Papers 5688, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.

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