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Ethics and economics: Lewis Gray and the conservation question

In “The Economic Possibilities of Conservation” [1913], Lewis Gray reinterpreted from an economic point of view the idea of conservation which had popularized the American Conservation Movement. He linked intergenerational equity and non-renewable resource extraction rate. Gray’s article can be considered as an antecedent of two significant debates in modern natural resource economics. On the one hand, it is a direct precedent of the environmental discussion about the meaning of discounting. On the other, it is an important element in the historical conformation of the sustainability debate.

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Paper provided by Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales in its series Documentos de trabajo de la Facultad de Ciencias Económicas y Empresariales with number 02-06.

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Length: 24 pages
Date of creation: 2002
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucm:doctra:02-06
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  1. Crabbe, Philippe J., 1983. "The contribution of L. C. Gray to the economic theory of exhaustible natural resources and its roots in the history of economic thought," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 10(3), pages 195-220, September.
  2. Collard, David, 1996. "Pigou and Future Generations: A Cambridge Tradition," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 20(5), pages 585-97, September.
  3. Crabbe, Philippe J., 1986. "Gray and Hotelling: A reply," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 295-300, September.
  4. Anthony C. Fisher & John V. Krutilla, 1975. "Resource Conservation, Environmental Preservation, and the Rate of Discount," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 89(3), pages 358-370.
  5. L. C. Gray, 1913. "The Economic Possibilities of Conservation," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 27(3), pages 497-519.
  6. Solow, Robert M, 1974. "The Economics of Resources or the Resources of Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 1-14, May.
  7. Dwight R. Lee & Daniel Orr, 1975. "The Private Discount Rate and Resource 'Conservation.'," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 8(3), pages 351-63, August.
  8. Richard Howarth & Richard Norgaard, 1993. "Intergenerational transfers and the social discount rate," Environmental & Resource Economics, European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 3(4), pages 337-358, August.
  9. John Hartwick, 1976. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investing of Rents from Exhaustible Resources," Working Papers 220, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
  10. Weitzman Martin L., 1994. "On the Environmental Discount Rate," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 200-209, March.
  11. Gerald Alonzo Smith, 1982. "Natural Resource Economic Theory of the First Conservation Movement (1895–1927)," History of Political Economy, Duke University Press, vol. 14(4), pages 483-495, Winter.
  12. Alonzo Smith, Gerald, 1986. "Gray and Hotelling: A comment," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 13(3), pages 292-294, September.
  13. Dasgupta, Partha, 1974. "On some alternative criteria for justice between generations," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 3(4), pages 405-423, November.
  14. S. V. Ciriacy-Wantrup, 1969. "Natural Resources in Economic Growth: The Role of Institutions and Policies," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 51(5), pages 1314-1324.
  15. Kenneth J. Arrow & Anthony C. Fisher, 1974. "Environmental Preservation, Uncertainty, and Irreversibility," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 88(2), pages 312-319.
  16. Daly, Herman E., 1990. "Toward some operational principles of sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 2(1), pages 1-6, April.
  17. John Rowse, 1990. "Discount Rate Choice and Efficiency in Exhaustible Resource Allocation," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 23(4), pages 772-90, November.
  18. R. M. Solow, 1973. "Intergenerational Equity and Exhaustable Resources," Working papers 103, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  19. Dasgupta, Swapan & Mitra, Tapan, 1983. "Intergenerational Equity and Efficient Allocation of Exhaustible Resources," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 24(1), pages 133-53, February.
  20. Solow, Robert M, 1986. " On the Intergenerational Allocation of Natural Resources," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 88(1), pages 141-49.
  21. Lozada, Gabriel A, 1993. "The Conservationist's Dilemma," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(3), pages 647-62, August.
  22. Devarajan, Shantayanan & Fisher, Anthony C, 1981. "Hotelling's "Economics of Exhaustible Resources": Fifty Years Later," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 19(1), pages 65-73, March.
  23. L. C. Gray & Mark Regan, 1940. "Needed Points of Development and Reorientation in Land Economic Theory," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 22(1), pages 34-46.
  24. John Hartwick, 1977. "Intergenerational Equity and the Investment of Rents from Exhaustible Resources in a Two Sector Model," Working Papers 281, Queen's University, Department of Economics.
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