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Invariance in growth theory and sustainable development

  • Martinet, Vincent
  • Rotillon, Gilles

This paper analyzes the general concept of sustainability from a different point of view than that generally found in the literature. If sustainability is defined as the requirement to keep something constant or at least non-decreasing throughout time, the choice of the thing to be preserved is controversial. Neo-classical models mainly assume that sustainability requires that consumption or a utility level has to be preserved. In this article, the authors object to this a priori conception of sustainability and define all the quantities that can be preserved in neo-classical optimal growth models. They thus wonder if invariant quantities can be found along the optimal paths defined by a classical representation of an economy with an exhaustible resource. They use the Noether theorem to determine the conservation laws of dynamic systems and examine under which conditions there is such invariance and how it could be interpreted as a sustainability indicator. They emphasize the limits of the economic growth theory for coping with the sustainability issue.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control.

Volume (Year): 31 (2007)
Issue (Month): 8 (August)
Pages: 2827-2846

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Handle: RePEc:eee:dyncon:v:31:y:2007:i:8:p:2827-2846
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  1. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
  2. Asheim,G.B. & Buchholz,W. & Tungodden,B., 1999. "Justifying sustainability," Memorandum 08/1999, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  3. Avinash Dixit & Peter Hammond & Michael Hoel, 1980. "On Hartwick's Rule for Regular Maximin Paths of Capital Accumulation and Resource Depletion," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 47(3), pages 551-556.
  4. Stavins, Robert & Wagner, Alexander & Wagner, Gernot, 2002. "Interpreting Sustainability in Economic Terms: Dynamic Efficiency Plus Intergenerational Equity," Working Paper Series rwp02-018, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  5. Sato, Ryuzo & Kim, Youngduk, 2002. "Hartwick's rule and economic conservation laws," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 26(3), pages 437-449, March.
  6. John Hartwick, 1976. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," Working Papers 220, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  7. Chichilnisky, Graciela & Heal, Geoffrey & Beltratti, Andrea, 1995. "The Green Golden Rule," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 175-179, August.
  8. Shane Frederick & George Loewenstein & Ted O'Donoghue, 2002. "Time Discounting and Time Preference: A Critical Review," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 40(2), pages 351-401, June.
  9. Heal, G., 1998. "Valuing the Future: Economic Theory and Sustainability," Papers 98-10, Columbia - Graduate School of Business.
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