Monday, May 12, 2008

Not about art.....

I went into graduate school in economics back in the early 80s for two reasons. First, I didn't really want to go to law school and a nice fellowship offer in the LSU economics department gave me an excuse to bail on that option; and second, Herman Daly was a professor in the economics department there. Herman was the first to explain the economic theory and logic behind sustainable (what he calls steady-state) economics. He built his work on the broad shoulders of the great economist and statistician Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen who first explored the relevance of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (entropy) to economics. Daly is funny as well as brilliant; the following story is from "Wisdom for a Livable Planet".

President Harry S. Truman was frustrated by the advice his council of economic advisors was giving him. On the one hand, its members would tell him, you should raise interest rates. On the other hand, they said, you should lower them. In exasperation Truman pronounced, "I'm tired of this one hand, other hand business. What I want is a good one-armed economist." In response to this story, told at a public forum by another panel member, the economist Herman Daly leaned forward in his chair and, with a slight forward motion of his upper body, he propelled his right arm up—his only arm. Placing his hand on the back of his neck, Daly commented, "Well, I was too young for Harry Truman, but I am here now. His prophecy has been fulfilled."

Dr. Daly has worked tirelessly for the last 40 years to promote an economics that respects the planet and its people. He has never lost hope that a Kuhnian paradigm shift might occur within economic thought. Alas that has not yet come true. All this came to mind when I saw a reference to a new book called the Economics of Happiness for which Herman wrote the forward. The book is described as follows:

"Economist Mark Anielski developed a new and practical economic model called Genuine Wealth to measure the real determinants of well-being and help redefine progress.

The Economics of Happiness shows:

* How economics, capitalism, accounting, and banking, which dominate our consciousness, can be reoriented toward the pursuit of genuine happiness
* How to rediscover the original meaning of the language of economics
* How to measure the five capitals of Genuine Wealth: human, social, natural, built, and financial
* How nations, governments, communities, and businesses are using the Genuine Wealth model to build a new economy of well-being
* How you and your family can apply the Genuine Wealth model in your lives"

Sounds sort of familiar doesn't it?

A Google search brought me to a blog by an English bloke named John Grant. Last month he posted a wonderful entry entitled "A Herman Daly Reader". It is worth a look for at least two reasons -- the summary of Daly's work is excellent and second, it links to a multitude of blogs and sources on green issues with a focus on green marketing. Definitely worth a look.

And if this teaser gets you interested in Daly, Amazon has the second edition of his classic book "Steady-State Economics" for $15 bucks used. You get a great book and don't kill a tree.

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