Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Steady State Economics Teach-in

On Wednesday 18th March over 40 people took part in the ‘teach in’ organised by SEMA (Stop Expansion at Manchester Airport). Promotion for the event explained that,
“As the international economy begins to re-articulate itself in light of the recent and ongoing financial crisis, it’s time to look at the alternatives to the growth-for-growths-sake economic model.”
The teach-in aimed to help people challenge the idea that we can have infinite economic growth on a planet of finite resources. Mike Prior began by explaining that Steady State Economics is a moral and social issue, as well as an economic issue, so we shouldn’t allow economists to dominate the discourse on how society is run.

The session itself was broken down into three sections: What is Steady State Economics? What are the social and moral issues that underpin it? Followed by a discussion on what we can do in order to support Steady State Economics.

Prior began by debunking some of the myths that shroud this subject. For example, he was not going to talk about freezing the economy as it is right now. Instead, the concept is about re-thinking the whole system; dealing with areas of dependency like fossil fuels, as well as places that need development, such as poverty stricken areas.
The origins of the Steady State Economic theory lie in ‘sustainability’, which existed as a new economics from the 1980’s. The crux of this theory was that every generation should aim to leave behind the same amount of resources that they consumed for the next generation.
For Steady State Economics to work, we would need a new way to measure the success of a society. The measure of GNP (Gross National Product) is currently highly valued by economists, policy makers and politicians alike, but it fails to measure the happiness and wellbeing of a society.

The New Economics Foundation has a lot more information on the short comings of the GNP measurement. They also propose a host of well-researched indicators that should be taken into account when measuring wellbeing and happiness. These include looking at equality of income or wealth, leisure time enjoyed, stability of relationships and job security.
In Prior’s opinion, you are by definition a Steady State Economist if you make an effort to “develop an economic indicator or set of statistics that enable the wellbeing of a society to be measured in a way that would be useful for policy making, from a local to an international level”.
New Economics Foundation website

Authored by Jenny Nelson-EN4M

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