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Viewpoint: Sustainability: Malthus revisited?

  • James A. Brander

The sustainability debate concerns whether the world will experience stable or improving living standards for the foreseeable future, or whether the current trajectory will overtax the natural environment, leading to a `crash' in living standards. This paper selectively reviews relevant research, focusing on both ecological concerns and technological progress, and asks whether susta inability would be problematic without rapid population growth. I suggest that continued demographic transition to lower fertility is the primary requirement for achieving sustainable development. This is, effectively, a modern translation of Malthus (1798) evolution.

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Article provided by Canadian Economics Association in its journal Canadian Journal of Economics.

Volume (Year): 40 (2007)
Issue (Month): 1 (February)
Pages: 1-38

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Handle: RePEc:cje:issued:v:40:y:2007:i:1:p:1-38
Contact details of provider: Postal: Canadian Economics Association Prof. Steven Ambler, Secretary-Treasurer c/o Olivier Lebert, CEA/CJE/CPP Office C.P. 35006, 1221 Fleury Est Montréal, Québec, Canada H2C 3K4
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  1. Pezzey, John C. V. & Anderies, John M., 2003. "The effect of subsistence on collapse and institutional adaptation in population-resource societies," Journal of Development Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(1), pages 299-320, October.
  2. Kremer, Michael, 1993. "Population Growth and Technological Change: One Million B.C. to 1990," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 108(3), pages 681-716, August.
  3. Oded Galor & Omer Moav, 2000. "Natural Selection and the Origin of economic Growth," Working Papers 2000-18, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  4. R. Morris Coats & Thomas R. Dalton, 2000. "Could institutional reform have saved Easter Island?," Journal of Evolutionary Economics, Springer, vol. 10(5), pages 489-505.
  5. Galor, Oded & Weil, David, 1999. "From Malthusian Stagnation to Modern Growth," CEPR Discussion Papers 2082, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  6. Arthur J. Robson & Hillard S. Kaplan, 2003. "The Evolution of Human Life Expectancy and Intelligence in Hunter-Gatherer Economies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(1), pages 150-169, March.
  7. Good, David H. & Reuveny, Rafael, 2006. "The fate of Easter Island: The limits of resource management institutions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 58(3), pages 473-490, June.
  8. Harford, Jon D, 1998. "The Ultimate Externality," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 88(1), pages 260-65, March.
  9. Dalton, Thomas R. & Coats, R. Morris & Asrabadi, Badiollah R., 2005. "Renewable resources, property-rights regimes and endogenous growth," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 52(1), pages 31-41, January.
  10. Pawlowski, Christopher W. & Fath, Brian D. & Mayer, Audrey L. & Cabezas, Heriberto, 2005. "Towards a sustainability index using information theory," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 30(8), pages 1221-1231.
  11. James Brander & M. Scott Taylor, 1997. "International Trade Between Consumer and Conservationist Countries," NBER Working Papers 6006, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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