He didn´t walk over to the east side of campus…

8 Jun

Criticism on the “Limits to Growth”

In my last post, I wrote about the shift of industry to “green products” and sustainable growth, as a reaction on the publication “The Limits to Growth” in 1972.

However, this book has not only been praised, it was also criticized strongly and provoked a big debate on the topics like limitations, scarce resources and the overshooting growth.

One of the main arguments of the opponents was that the publication was not scientific and detailed enough and therefore not accurate, because of the ignorance of other economic models and assumptions. As a consequence, opponents argued that the computer model, that the author used to run the scenarios of possible future developments, was misleading.

Just let me quote, what an author wrote in the New York Times:

“The essential story there was one of hard-science arrogance: Forrester (the developer of the computer model), an eminent professor of engineering, decided to try his hand at economics, and basically said, “I’m going to do economics with equations! And run them on a computer! I’m sure those stupid economists have never thought of that!” And he didn’t walk over to the east side of campus to ask whether, in fact, any economists ever had thought of that, and what they had learned.”

Moreover, the publication was criticized as unscientific, inaccurate and overly pessimistic, so it was easier for many policy makers to continue business as usual, pursuing the primary goal of economic growth and ignoring the warnings of the Club of Rome.

Another common criticism of the limits to growth warnings were that technological innovation and market signals would allow growth to continue. It was also argued that the regulatory power of market prices would reduce the demand for scarce resources, since the scarcity would drive the prices up, the demand for scarce resources would go down. Technological innovation would then find substitutes so that growth could continue.

However, as I discussed in my very first post about the Club of Rome, the forecast, made in 1972, became true. The predicted data is very similar to thee actual development.

Additionally, for the last 35 years, progress on energy technologies has consistently fallen bellow expectations and consequently can not bare the overshooting growth.

Apart from that, the conclusions made by the Club of Rome were not black and white; in contrast, they were pretty optimistic, stating that the unsustainable situation of the world economy could be changed and the collapse could be prevented.

Nevertheless, the majority of the policy makers decided to go the easier way and continue as usual concentrating on short-term success. But we all should have in mind that a worthwhile goal is not for free, but demands that we make major affords for changes in our attitudes and our behavior.


One Response to “He didn´t walk over to the east side of campus…”

  1. Ferhat June 9, 2012 at 1:22 am #

    Your blog post is interesting. Even though I didn’t read the first part, it wasn’t difficult to understand. The link to the first part is a very good idea. In my posts I unfortunately didn’t use such links to redirect my readers to the cognate subjects. However you didn’t subdivide your article. For example, visual sections could improve the clarity and comprehensibility. Anyhow your blog post is really worth to read. The most, I like your narrational competence. This time you hit again the nail on the top! 🙂

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