Jul 1, 2013

Kenneth Arrow's new paper

Any programs or movements trying to rapidly move society toward sustainability, will need to emphasize that many old ideas—such as that infinite growth of the physical economy is possible, that people are rational utility maximizers, that plagues are a phenomenon of the past, that nation states are the final stage of evolution of large political entities—can no longer be solid anchors for thinking about the future. Overall we would also recommend the “precautionary principle” needs to move into the forefront of both policy analysis and the thinking of the general public. This principle states, loosely, that we should avoid following any policy for which there is credible, even though not conclusive, evidence that it may lead to a very serious negative effect. In theory it should be prominent in any properly done cost-benefit analysis, but it normally is not—indeed many of the interactions of the human system with the ecosystem-environmental system (e.g., depletion of natural capital) are classically ignored. It’s a big order to apply the principle broadly to the really major issues facing society, but doing so would greatly improve society’s ability to buffer the serious threats embodied in the evolution of the two intertwined complex adaptive systems, which have been so central to Partha Dasgupta’s research agenda.
Paul R. Ehrlich & Simon A. Levin are the coauthors. 

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