The idiocy of Herman Daly

Herman Daly is sometimes regarded as the founder of \”ecological economics\”. The difference between environmental economics and ecological economics is often characterised as the former being bringing the insights of economics to hte environemnt. The latter, bringing the insights of ecology* to economics.

Judging by this little piece ecological economics is rather the abandonment of anything and everything that economics can actually tell us.

Another thing students can build on is that economics does recognize a distinction between market versus public goods. Market goods are rival and excludable. My shirt is rival and excludable because it\’s my property and if I wear it, you can\’t wear it. Students can raise issues with how the whole set of goods that are non-rival are dealt with. Is the best way to deal with non-rival goods going around and making them more artificially excludable? Maybe they should be free? Where is the benefit from making knowledge artificially scarce? Many non-rival goods such as knowledge can be used sustainably in that we can all use a given piece of information as much as we want without using it up.

Yes, we all know that about public goods. Which is exactly what the problem with them is: precisely because they are non-rivalrous and non-excludable we need to design some system to encourage their production. Which we do by assigning property rights to knowledge (\”make them artificially scarce\”) so as to encourage their production.

* This does rather assume that \”ecology\” actually has insights worth bringing.

2 comments on “The idiocy of Herman Daly

  1. The Open Source movement is interesting in this respect as it’s not protected by copyright but is almost driven to exist by the fact other software is proprietary and copyright.

  2. Robert,

    “we need to design some system to encourage their production.”

    But this is true of Open Source software too: it’s just that the system isn’t a monetary form of property rights – it’s peer recognition: there is a race to be e.g. the chap who submits the “winning” bug fix.

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