Sustainable Development and Intergenerational Equity: Issues Relevant to India and Globally

As outlined, recurring concerns have surfaced since the 1700s that economic growth may prove to be unsustainable. These concerns have been expressed again and have intensified in recent decades but their foundation differs from that of Malthus. The rapid economic growth of China and India have added to these worries. Recent discussions by economists of the desirability of achieving sustainable economic development have mainly focused on measures to attain intergenerational equity in resource use and the dominant view is that each succeeding generation should be at least as well-off as its predecessor. While this is said to be an implication of Rawls’ principle of justice, this dominant rule does not fully reflect Rawls’ principle and it also can violate the Paretian improvement criterion. However, the full application of Rawls’ principle leads to questionable results. For example, it assumes a greater degree of risk-aversion than seems likely in practice and it ignores the importance of intergenerational altruism, for example, the sacrifices that parents willingly make for their children. Rawls’ principle also displays cosmological bias which results in it being at odds with the teachings of Hinduism and Buddhism. The mainstream stance on sustainable economic development does not appose economic growth. However, another neo-Malthusian point of view, expressed for example by Daly and Georgescu-Roegen, does. It is opposed to an increase in levels of global material production, that is, increased throughput of natural resources for economic production. These views are given some attention. Even if there is agreement about what constitutes a desirable path for economic development, uncertainty limits the scope for identifying measures that will achieve it. That raises the question of how far into the future should existing generations attempt to sustain economic development. This is discussed. In conclusion, it is pointed out that the nature of market systems and international relations make it very difficult to implement policies that can significantly reduce global economic growth and foster sustainable economic development. These problems are global problems and no country, India and China included, can afford to ignore them.


Issue Date:
2010-12
Publication Type:
Working or Discussion Paper
DOI and Other Identifiers:
ISSN: 1327-8231 (Other)
PURL Identifier:
http://purl.umn.edu/97470
Total Pages:
16
JEL Codes:
O13; O44; Q01
Series Statement:
Economics, Ecology and The Environment
174




 Record created 2017-04-01, last modified 2017-08-25

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