Herman E. Daly: Steady State Economics

In this interview, economist Herman E. Daly describes steady state economics, a conceptual approach to production and economic activity that manages population and uses resources at a sustainable level.

| January/February 1980

In our "Let the Men and Women of Wisdom Speak" feature in MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we ran an eloquent antinuclear statement by a professor of economics named Herman E. Daly. Since that time, we've received many letters from readers who admired the well-expressed thought but ended their notes by asking, "Just who is Herman E. Daly, anyway?"  

The question is a fair one, because Dr. Daly's name isn't exactly a household word . . . at least not yet. However, such "heavyweight" thinkers as Paul Ehrlich and Garrett Hardin are familiar with the Louisiana State University economist's work (Ehrlich has gone so far as to say that Daly is "among our most important theoreticians for a sustainable society").  

Furthermore, the LSU professor is rapidly becoming known as one of the leaders of a movement to aim our society toward a long-term, sustainable, "steady-state" view of the earth and its needs ... a movement that has also been represented by E.F. Schumacher, Kenneth Boulding, and Amory Lovins.  

You see, Professor Daly knows how to describe the fatal path of our "more is bigger is better" cultural growth syndrome with a clarity and eloquence that few people can match. Even more important, he has prepared a set of well-thought-out solutions to many of our runaway society's problems he calls steady state economics. 

In order to find out more about this man, and about his blueprint for a steady-state future, MOTHER EARTH NEWS sent staffer Pat Stone to Baton Rouge to interview the LSU professor. The following transcript—which has been edited from over four hours of conversation—is the summary of that encounter. When you finish reading it, you'll no longer be asking, "Who's Herman E. Daly?" Instead—because this social scientist's message is so vitally significant—we think (and hope) that you'll start telling other people about Dr. Daly and his work!  

PLOWBOY: Professor Daly, you've said that most economists do little more than "seek the optimal arrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic" ... in other words, that the finance specialists are so busy tinkering with the details of market operations that they don't realize the whole system is headed for disaster! Isn't that a pretty harsh criticism?

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