Herman Daly: The most informed critic of growth is dead

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Herman Daly is one of the founders of ecological economics and offered an alternative view of environmental problems. He has now died at the age of 84.

If you want to sum up Herman Daly’s scientific achievements, this formulation is probably the best: he spent his life trying to design an economics for a full world.

By full world is meant that so many resources are used by population and economic growth that a sustainable level is exceeded.

It is no coincidence that the title of the US economist’s first scientific biography is: “Herman Daly’s Economics for a Full World”.

His Canadian colleague Peter Victor presented them this year.

It proves the intellectual commitment with which he has become one of the most credible sustainability economists over the past six decades.


Phillip Krohn

Editor in business, responsible for “People and Business”.

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At the end of the 1980s, Daly and his comrades-in-arms founded the subject of ecological economics because conventional environmental and resource economics did not even deal with many ecologically significant issues.

They called for a fundamental paradigm shift: the economy must be understood as a subsystem of nature and not the other way around.

Only then can problems such as the overloading of natural pollutant sinks, biodiversity and the irreversibility of environmental damage be solved.

Daly had long been an authority on environmental economics, having published a collection of essays entitled “Toward a Steady-State Economy” in 1973 and the book “Steady State Economics” four years later, which contained essential of his scientific innovations.

“No one has made a greater contribution”

Victor’s biography gathers statements from some of the heavyweights in ecological economics that illustrate Daly’s standing for science: “No one has made a greater contribution than Herman Daly to what today’s ‘full world’ economics should encompass,” said economist Robert Costanza .

“Daly’s Steady State Economcis marked a turning point in economic thinking with revolutionary conclusions,” said bestselling author and sustainability researcher Tim Jackson.

“Daly’s work should be read by everyone who studies economics and everyone who doesn’t.

It’s a giant with countless people standing on its shoulders and countless others who should,” said Australian economics professor Philip Lawn.

Despite these unequivocal judgments, Daly received little attention in the economic mainstream.

If environmental and resource problems are conceptualized there as market failures that can be corrected with higher prices, he saw deeper cultural causes.

His starting point was the writings of the unconventional economists Kenneth Boulding, a Briton, and Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, a Romanian, in the later 1960s.

They recognized that increasing economic growth is accompanied by an increase in energy and material throughput.

You are among the first economists to declare a radical shift from fossil to renewable energies to be the greatest task of economic policy.