Title: The flawed paradigms of economics and sustainable development

Authors: Richard Sanders

Addresses: Queensland Chapter, Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Abstract: This paper argues that the failure of the sustainable development paradigm is due to it being subsumed into the economic paradigm - a paradigm so disconnected from reality that it simply cannot address the sustainability problem. This arises from a failure to understand the fundamental contradiction between ecological imperatives and economic imperatives. An analysis of the financial system and its role in the problem leads to the conclusion it is the inevitable structural driver of ecological overshoot and increasing inequity. An examination of the origins of economic thought and the assumptions it is based on throws some light on the flawed theoretical foundations of economics. In light of these insights the final section considers how humanity might allocate the absolutely scarce resources of the planet so as to maximise the welfare of humanity while ensuring the very long term sustainability of the human enterprise.

Keywords: flawed paradigms; sustainable development; ecological economics; sustainability; second law of thermodynamics; environmental economics; absolute scarcity; strong sustainability; physical budget constraints; critical natural capital; sustainability emergency; chrematistics; ecological overshoot; virtual wealth; economic paradox.

DOI: 10.1504/IJSD.2016.077207

International Journal of Sustainable Development, 2016 Vol.19 No.2, pp.110 - 126

Accepted: 12 Oct 2014
Published online: 22 Jun 2016 *

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