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A dialogue with Dan O'Neill on the Steady-State Economy

Event Details

A dialogue with Dan O'Neill on the Steady-State Economy

Time: November 6, 2013 from 5pm to 7pm
Location: Strut Studios
Street: 910 Richards Street
City/Town: Vancouver
Website or Map:…
Event Neighbourhood and Type: ecological economics, steady-state
Organized By: Board of Change
Latest Activity: Nov 4, 2013

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Event Description

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The steady-state economy: What does it look like? Do we want it? How do we get there? 

The pure environmental case for adopting a steady-state economy a policy goal, seems intuitive and persuasive, but that is not likely to be enough for many of us.

Equally intuitive, unfortunately, is a concern that reaching that goal may involve significant sacrifices in terms of human well-being. The well-being of our own generation and that of the generation immediately following us, is of particular concern. In the transition to a steady-state economy, we may legitimately fear that we would undergo, very rapidly, dramatic and uncomfortable changes associated with "withdrawal" from the "drug" of economic "growth". But would the generations that follow not benefit sufficiently to warrant us facing down our fears, here and now?

Is more economic growth (of the "business as usual" kind) good or bad for our future quality of life ? Is it really feasible for the economy grow in a qualitatively-better way, but still grow as rapidly as we are used to expecting (i.e. 3% annual increase in GDP) ? If "business as usual" growth is beginning to get us into trouble, and more qualitatively-selective growth is both harder to accomplish and likely to be slower, might it still be preferable to choose a slower-growth / higher quality strategy ?  And how much slower ?   

Entrepreneurs typically, have confidence that their ventures will succeed. Most serious entrepreneurs expect that their efforts will succeed precisely because those efforts address worthwhile human desires. If offering a new product or service, the entrepreneurial business hopes that the new offering will enrich life. If offering a variant of an existing product or service, the hope might be that it will succeed in producing or distributing a better version of a known offering, in a smarter way.   

Is the kind of improvement-in-quality-of-life so closely associated with smart, serious and successful entrepreneurship, compatible with a new-style economy in which we consciously strive to contain and ultimately eliminate, growth in absolute material throughput ?

These are big, important questions, in a big, truly essential conversation. A good starting point, is to put the usual assumption that "if some is good, more is [always] better",  under a critical microscope.  In particular, we may want to look at a case where "some may have been good in the past and more may have been better for a while after that, but more is no longer better".

Steady-state economic thinking is not new. It is arguably as old as economics itself.  It went through a phase of gaining momentum in the 1970s, under the influence of E.F. Schumacher and Herman Daly, amongst others. It has gained fresh momentum again, since the 2008-09 financial crisis, because mainstream, GDP-growth-oriented  economics, has seemed so adrift and moribund.    

Dan O'Neill , along with Josh Farley, Brian Czech and Rob Dietz, is prominent amongst the latest generation of ecological economists.   Come and join the conversation !


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Comment by Jordan B on November 4, 2013 at 12:13pm

Please note that the venue for this event has changed due to higher than anticipated demand! The new venue is Strut Studios, 910 Richards Street.

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