Sovereign Citizens and Constrained Consumers: Why Sustainability Requires Limits on Choice
There is resistance to policies that would reduce overall consumption levels to promote sustainability. In part, this resistance is aided by the economic concept of consumer sovereignty (CS) and its presumption that choice promotes wellbeing. We investigate the concept of consumer sovereignty in the context of deepening concerns about sustainability and scrutinise whether the two concepts are compatible. We draw on new findings in psychology on human decision-making traits; we take into account increasing awareness about human dependencies on 'functioning' ecosystems and uncertainties on how ecosystems, human activities and human wellbeing are interlinked. We conclude that commitment to the concept of consumer sovereignty is incompatible with sustainability due to human characteristics, the difficult-to-predict behaviour of ecological systems and ignorance about the impact of human action on natural systems. We propose that the choice-set of available goods and services on markets should be constrained when consumption patterns can be linked to degradation of services provided by nature when those services are seen as crucial for human wellbeing. We advocate constraining the available choice-set through established governmental institutions aided by deliberative processes that engage members of the general public. Finally, we acknowledge that such processes are imperfect; nevertheless, we foresee that they will be essential for fostering wise decision-making and moving towards sustainability.
If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
As the access to this document is restricted, you may want to look for a different version under "Related research" (further below) or search for a different version of it.
References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Erland Skollerhorn, 1998. "Habermas and Nature: The Theory of Communicative Action for Studying Environmental Policy," Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(5), pages 555-573.
- Limburg, Karin E. & O'Neill, Robert V. & Costanza, Robert & Farber, Stephen, 2002. "Complex systems and valuation," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(3), pages 409-420, June.
- Norton, Bryan & Costanza, Robert & Bishop, Richard C., 1998. "The evolution of preferences: Why 'sovereign' preferences may not lead to sustainable policies and what to do about it," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 24(2-3), pages 193-211, February.
- Fisher, Brendan & Turner, R. Kerry & Morling, Paul, 2009. "Defining and classifying ecosystem services for decision making," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(3), pages 643-653, January.
- Sneddon, Chris & Howarth, Richard B. & Norgaard, Richard B., 2006. "Sustainable development in a post-Brundtland world," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 57(2), pages 253-268, May.
- Arild Vatn, 2004. "Environmental Valuation and Rationality," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 80(1), pages 1-18.
- Robert Sugden, 2008. "Why incoherent preferences do not justify paternalism," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 19(3), pages 226-248, September.
- Judith Petts & Catherine Brooks, 2006. "Expert conceptualisations of the role of lay knowledge in environmental decisionmaking: challenges for deliberative democracy," Environment and Planning A, Pion Ltd, London, vol. 38(6), pages 1045-1059, June.
- Karine Nyborg & Inger Spangen, 2000.
"Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Democratic Ideal,"
Nordic Journal of Political Economy,
Nordic Journal of Political Economy, vol. 26, pages 83-93.
- Karine Nyborg & Inger Spangen, 1997. "Cost-Benefit Analysis and the Democratic Ideal," Discussion Papers 205, Statistics Norway, Research Department.
- Marko Ahteensuu & Helena Siipi, 2009. "A Critical Assessment of Public Consultations on GMOs in the European Union," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 18(2), pages 129-152, May.
- V. Kerry Smith, 2008. "Reflections on the Literature," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(1), pages 130-145, Winter.
- V. Kerry Smith, 2007. "Reflections on the Literature," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 1(2), pages 300-318, Summer.
- V. Kerry Smith, 2008. "Reflections on the Literature," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 2(2), pages 292-308, Summer.
- Schlapfer, Felix, 2009. "Contingent valuation: confusions, problems, and solutions," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 68(6), pages 1569-1571, April.
- Vatn Arild & Bromley Daniel W., 1994. "Choices without Prices without Apologies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 129-148, March.
- Clive L. Spash, 2008. "How Much is that Ecosystem in the Window? The One with the Bio-diverse Trail," Environmental Values, White Horse Press, vol. 17(2), pages 259-284, May.
- Jacquet, Jennifer L. & Pauly, Daniel, 2007. "The rise of seafood awareness campaigns in an era of collapsing fisheries," Marine Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 308-313, May.
- Norton, Bryan G. & Noonan, Douglas, 2007. "Ecology and valuation: Big changes needed," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 664-675, September.
- Knut Veisten & Ståle Navrud, 2006. "Contingent valuation and actual payment for voluntarily provided passive-use values: Assessing the effect of an induced truth-telling mechanism and elicitation formats," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 38(7), pages 735-756.
- Peter Dauvergne, 2005. "Dying of Consumption: Accidents or Sacrifices of Global Morality?," Global Environmental Politics, MIT Press, vol. 5(3), pages 35-47, 08.
- Venkatachalam, L., 2008. "Behavioral economics for environmental policy," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 67(4), pages 640-645, November. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:env:journl:ev22:ev2205. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (Andrew Johnson)
If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.
If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.
If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.
Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.