Sustainability: Are Economists on the Right Track?

2017-06-07T05:22:45Z (GMT) by Wills, Ian
Economists commonly express the concept of sustainability using economic growth models. These models allow exploration of the impacts of technological progress, different types of natural resources, degrees of resource substitutability and inter-temporal preferences on long-term economic growth. However since such models require perfect knowledge of technologies and preferences, they are institution-free, and provide no guide to actual implementation of sustainability. In particular, since changes in complex adaptive social-ecological systems are unlikely to be gradual or linear or predictable, models that aim at better control of environmental and social outcomes are unlikely to lead to sustainability. Alternative views of sustainability, springing from philosophy and systems analysis,suggest that institutional arrangements are likely to be better guides to implementation of sustainability. It may be better sought by creating flexible institutions that promote progressive learning and the incorporation of new knowledge into the institutions and organizations that guide human decisions.