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Accounting for Sustainability: A Dissenting Opinion

  • Robert D. Cairns

    ()

    (Department of Economics, McGill University, 855 Sherbrooke St. W., Montreal QC H3A 2T7, Canada)

Discounted-utilitarian welfare, the commonest social objective studied by economists, is the basis for the theory of green accounting in terms of social utility. Sustainability is a different type of social objective. Consequently, green accounting as derived in many empirical models is not appropriate for studying sustainability. Maximin is a consistent foundation for the analysis of sustainability, both weak and strong, that provides conceptually correct accounting prices. These prices are not yet practicable for real economies, however, and must await further advances. Sustainable development is a generalization of the notion of sustainability and can be analyzed using a generalization of maximin.

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Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

Volume (Year): 3 (2011)
Issue (Month): 9 (August)
Pages: 1341-1356

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Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:3:y:2011:i:9:p:1341-1356:d:13757
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  1. Asheim, Geir B, 1994. " Net National Product as an Indicator of Sustainability," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 96(2), pages 257-65.
  2. Hamilton, Kirk & Clemens, Michael, 1999. "Genuine Savings Rates in Developing Countries," World Bank Economic Review, World Bank Group, vol. 13(2), pages 333-56, May.
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  5. Martinet, Vincent, 2007. "A step beside the maximin path: Can we sustain the economy by following Hartwick's investment rule?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 64(1), pages 103-108, October.
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  7. Howarth, Richard B., 2007. "Towards an operational sustainability criterion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 63(4), pages 656-663, September.
  8. BENCHEKROUN, Hassan & WITHAGEN, Cees, 2010. "The Optimal Depletion of Exhaustible Resources : A Complete Characterization," Cahiers de recherche 04-2010, Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en économie quantitative, CIREQ.
  9. Cairns, Robert D. & Long, Ngo Van, 2006. "Maximin: a direct approach to sustainability," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 11(03), pages 275-300, June.
  10. Solow, Robert, 1993. "An almost practical step toward sustainability," Resources Policy, Elsevier, vol. 19(3), pages 162-172, September.
  11. Hassan Benchekroun & Cees Withagen, 2008. "Global Dynamics In A Growth Model With An Exhaustible Resource," Departmental Working Papers 2008-01, McGill University, Department of Economics.
  12. Graciela Chichilnisky, 1996. "An axiomatic approach to sustainable development," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer, vol. 13(2), pages 231-257, April.
  13. Weitzman, Martin L, 1976. "On the Welfare Significance of National Product in a Dynamic Economy," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 90(1), pages 156-62, February.
  14. Hartwick, John M, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 67(5), pages 972-74, December.
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  16. John C. V. Pezzey, 2002. "Sustainability Policy and Environmental Policy," Economics and Environment Network Working Papers 0211, Australian National University, Economics and Environment Network.
  17. Withagen, Cees & B. Asheim, Geir, 1998. "Characterizing sustainability: The converse of Hartwick's rule," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 23(1), pages 159-165, September.
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