Sustainability, optimality, and viability in the Ramsey model
The Ramsey model of economic growth is revisited from the point of view of viability compared to optimality. A viable state is a state from which there exists at least one trajectory in capital, consumption, and reproduction that remains in the set of constraints of minimal consumption and positive wealth. There exists a largest set of viable states, including all others, called the viability kernel. This concept is an interesting addition to those of equilibria and optimal paths. Viability is first presented with a constraint of minimal consumption, then with an additional criterion of economic sustainability in the sense of the Brundtland commission, which amounts to requiring a non-decreasing social welfare. The comparison of viability kernels with or without sustainability shows how much consumption should be reduced and when. One strong mathematical result is that the viable-optimal solution in the sense of inter-temporal consumption is obtained on the viability boundary of an auxiliary system. Varying preference, technological, and demographic parameters randomly over simulated viability kernels with and without the Brundtland criterion help identify the determinants of the non-emptiness of the viability kernel and of its volume: technological progress works against population growth to favor the possibility for a given state of being viable or viable-sustainable.
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