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Paradoxical consumption behavior when economic activity has environmental effects


  • Asheim, Geir B.


In a model where enhanced economic activity (accumulation of produced capital) leads to environmental effects (depletion of natural capital), competitive steady states corresponding to different discount rates are compared. For positive discount rates, the steady state stock of produced capital may exceed the size maximizing sustainable consumption. This implies paradoxical consumption behavior; that is, a lower discount rate may be associated with lower steady state consumption. The theoretical significance of this phenomenon for intergenerational equity is discussed, and examples indicating the empirical relevance of the underlying assumptions are presented.

Suggested Citation

  • Asheim, Geir B., 2008. "Paradoxical consumption behavior when economic activity has environmental effects," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 65(3-4), pages 529-546, March.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:jeborg:v:65:y:2008:i:3-4:p:529-546

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. 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.
    2. Avi J. Cohen, 2003. "Retrospectives: Whatever Happened to the Cambridge Capital Theory Controversies?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 17(1), pages 199-214, Winter.
    3. Becker, Robert A., 1982. "Intergenerational equity: The capital-environment trade-off," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 9(2), pages 165-185, June.
    4. Geir Asheim & Wolfgang Buchholz & Cees Withagen, 2003. "The Hartwick Rule: Myths and Facts," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 25(2), pages 129-150, June.
    5. Burmeister, Edwin & Hammond, P J, 1977. "Maximin Paths of Heterogeneous Capital Accumulation and the Instability of Paradoxical Steady States," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(4), pages 853-870, May.
    6. Asheim, Geir B. & Weitzman, Martin L., 2001. "Does NNP growth indicate welfare improvement?," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 73(2), pages 233-239, November.
    7. Hartwick, John M, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 972-974, December.
    8. Barkley Rosser, J. Jr., 1983. "Reswitching as a cusp catastrophe," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 182-193, October.
    9. Swan, Trevor W, 2002. "Economic Growth," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 78(243), pages 375-380, December.
    10. Geir Asheim & Tapan Mitra & Bertil Tungodden, 2012. "Sustainable recursive social welfare functions," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 49(2), pages 267-292, February.
    11. Joan Robinson, 1975. "The Unimportance of Reswitching," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 89(1), pages 32-39.
    12. R. M. Solow, 1974. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustible Resources," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 41(5), pages 29-45.
    13. Clark, Colin W & Clarke, Frank H & Munro, Gordon R, 1979. "The Optimal Exploitation of Renewable Resource Stocks: Problems of Irreversible Investment," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 47(1), pages 25-47, January.
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    Cited by:

    1. Anders Skonhoft & Asle Gauteplass, 2012. "Optimal exploitation of a renewable resource with capital limitations," Working Paper Series 12912, Department of Economics, Norwegian University of Science and Technology.
    2. Geir B. Asheim & Frikk Nesje, 2016. "Destructive Intergenerational Altruism," Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, University of Chicago Press, vol. 3(4), pages 957-984.
    3. Strulik, Holger, 2017. "Hyperbolic discounting and the time-consistent solution of three canonical environmental problems," Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Discussion Papers 319, University of Goettingen, Department of Economics.

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