The current increase in global warming and overpopulation is leading to more natural disasters on top of the depletion of resources. It causes people to look for alternative resource systems that are more sustainable. This in turn puts more non-mainstream economic proposals, both good and bad, to the public view. In this post, we shall discuss a bad proposal called the Steady State Economy.
Its founder Herman Daly defines itas:
Immediately, the word 'constant' creates a problem because it must be defined and set. If applied to population, then it would justify imposing a one-chid or two-child policy as seen in China and Vietnam.
With the absurdity of the first definition, other steady state sites offer alternatives:
Steady state imposes a limit on production. Since you can only produce what is demanded, then you can only do this effectively by stifling demand or human desire in general. This can only be done by draconian or unnatural policies implemented by big governments. If laissez faire were 'no regulation' and high but unstable growth, then steady state would be the opposite 'excessive regulation,' leading to zero growth.
Some of these unnatural policies and their effects are:
To justify the limitations to growth, it cites Smith saying that growth is limited to 200 years:
As someone who has read Smith's works word by word, I can say that Smith never said such a thing like a limit to economic growth*. It conveniently misinterpreted Smith's following statements in Book 1 and 3 of the Wealth of Nations and then used it to justify its own ideas, in the same way that Samuelson conveniently misinterpreted Smith's invisible hand to justify selfishness:
From shallow observation, it would seem that the Earth itself matches Smith's description of a 'country fully peopled' at 7.4 billion. Outsourcing has allowed work to be sent elsewhere, lowering wages, while free trade agreements allow foreign products in, pushing down profits. However, like Smith's observation of China, this is only true because the prevailing economic system is unnatural. The ancient Chinese economy was unnaturally dominated by the ruling class as emperors, causing it to stagnate, while the current global economic system is dominated by the merchant class who are called 'capitalists' nowadays, causing 'secular stagnation' and even possible extinction via global warming. Change the system, balance the classes naturally, then such a situation can be avoided naturally.
Another misinterpretation is the 200 year limit:
That paragraph was taken from a chapter on how commerce contributes to wealth. Smith merely said that with zero agriculture or land investments (fixed capital), commercial wealth (circulating capital) can only last around 200 years. This observation is true when applied to societies that only use commerce or circulating capital -- mercantile companies. Smith's 200 year span holds true for most mercantile companies. It does not usually apply to nations, except maybe for mercantile towns and ports such as Amsterdam, Singapore and Hongkong which have very little land. Amsterdam flourished in the 16th and 17th century but declined in the 18th and 19th. So the 200 year span applied to it. Modern Singapore was created in 1965 so we can see in year 2165 if Smith's 200 year span applies to it as well.
Smith always looked at the good and bad aspects of policies and systems. So on the positive, steady state goes straight into attacking the recklessness of profit maximization and deregulation advanced by Economics and brings up the threat of planetary destruction. Rather than emphasize its bad recommendations, it would be better to hitch a ride on its 'save the planet' advocacy, then steer it to the proper direction once more people jump in.