IDEAS home Printed from
   My bibliography  Save this paper

Sustainability : ethical foundations and economic properties


  • Asheim, Geir B.


The author interprets development to be sustainable if it involves a nondecreasing quality of life. He introduces a concept of justice, and shows that a development path must be sustainable to prevent injustice. He argues, and illustrates through growth models, that altruism alone does not - even in the context of an economically efficient market economy - ensure sustainability. In particular, technologies with complementarity between manmade and natural capital represent cases where sustainability need not result. Thus, policies aimed at economic efficiency, such as internalizing external effects, need not generate sustainable development. The author argues that a positive interest rate is not inconsistent with sustainable development. He also maintains that, even in a perfect market economy, prices may not convey whether investments in manmade capital are sufficient to compensate for the depletion of natural capital. In particular, a non-negative market value of net investment is not sufficient for the present quality of life to be sustainable. Finally, he emphasizes that public policy aimed at sustainable development should strengthen the mechanisms for redistribution from the present to the future.

Suggested Citation

  • Asheim, Geir B., 1994. "Sustainability : ethical foundations and economic properties," Policy Research Working Paper Series 1302, The World Bank.
  • Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1302

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL:
    Download Restriction: no


    Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.

    Cited by:

    1. Barrett, Christopher B., 1996. "Fairness, stewardship and sustainable development," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(1), pages 11-17, October.
    2. repec:spr:soinre:v:135:y:2018:i:2:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1518-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Withagen, C. A. A. M., 1996. "Sustainability and investment rules," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 53(1), pages 1-6, October.
    4. Anand, Sudhir & Sen, Amartya, 2000. "Human Development and Economic Sustainability," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 28(12), pages 2029-2049, December.
    5. Pop, Izabela Luiza & Borza, Anca, 2015. "Sustainable Museums for Sustainable Development," MPRA Paper 68360, University Library of Munich, Germany.


    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:1302. 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: (Roula I. Yazigi). General contact details of provider: .

    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.

    We have no references for this item. You can help adding them by using 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 RePEc Author Service 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.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.