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Evaluating Projects and Assessing Sustainable Development in Imperfect Economies

  • Kenneth Arrow

    (Research Initiative on the Environment, the Economy, and Sustainable Welfare, Stanford University, Stanford)

  • Partha Dasgupta

    (Faculty of Economics of Cambridge and St. John’s College, Cambridge)

  • Karl-Göran Mäler

    (Beijer International Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm)

We are interested in three related questions: (1) How should accounting prices be estimated? (2) How should we evaluate policy change in an imperfect economy? (3) How can we check whether intergenerational well-being will be sustained along a projected economic programme? We do not presume that the economy is convex, nor do we assume that the government optimizes on behalf of its citizens. We show that the same set of accounting prices should be used both for policy evaluation and for assessing whether or not intergenerational welfare along a given economic path will be sustained. We also show that a comprehensive measure of wealth, computed in terms of the accounting prices, can be used as an index for problems (2) and (3) above. The remainder of the paper is concerned with rules for estimating the accounting prices of several specific environmental natural resources, transacted in a few well known economic institutions.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2003.109.

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Date of creation: Dec 2003
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2003.109
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  1. Vincent, Jeffrey R. & Panayotou, Theodore & Hartwick, John M., 1997. "Resource Depletion and Sustainability in Small Open Economies," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 33(3), pages 274-286, July.
  2. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Valuing Objects and Evaluating Policies in Imperfect Economies," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 111(471), pages C1-29, May.
  3. Dasgupta, Partha, 2001. "Human Well-Being and the Natural Environment," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199247882.
  4. Hahn, F H, 1970. "Savings and Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 37(1), pages 21-24, January.
  5. R. M. Solow, 1973. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustable Resources," Working papers 103, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
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  7. John Hartwick, 1976. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," Working Papers 220, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  8. Levhari, David & Srinivasan, T N, 1969. "Optimal Savings under Uncertainty," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(106), pages 153-63, April.
  9. Kenneth J. Arrow & Partha Dasgupta & Karl-Göran Mäler, 2003. "The genuine savings criterion and the value of population," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 21(2), pages 217-225, 03.
  10. Dasgupta, Partha & M Ler, Karl-G Ran, 2000. "Net national product, wealth, and social well-being," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 5(01), pages 69-93, February.
  11. Pearce, David & Hamilton, Kirk & Atkinson, Giles, 1996. "Measuring sustainable development: progress on indicators," Environment and Development Economics, Cambridge University Press, vol. 1(01), pages 85-101, February.
  12. Nordhaus, William D & Yang, Zili, 1996. "A Regional Dynamic General-Equilibrium Model of Alternative Climate-Change Strategies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(4), pages 741-65, September.
  13. Pearce, David W. & Atkinson, Giles D., 1993. "Capital theory and the measurement of sustainable development: an indicator of "weak" sustainability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 8(2), pages 103-108, October.
  14. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
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  16. D. Gale Johnson, 2001. "On Population and Resources: A Comment," Population and Development Review, The Population Council, Inc., vol. 27(4), pages 739-747.
  17. Susan M. Collins & Barry P. Bosworth, 1996. "Economic Growth in East Asia: Accumulation versus Assimilation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 27(2), pages 135-204.
  18. Asheim, Geir B., 1996. "Capital gains and net national product in open economies," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 59(3), pages 419-434, March.
  19. Skiba, A K, 1978. "Optimal Growth with a Convex-Concave Production Function," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 46(3), pages 527-39, May.
  20. Sefton, J. A. & Weale, M. R., 1996. "The net national product and exhaustible resources: The effects of foreign trade," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(1), pages 21-47, July.
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