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Prosperity Without Growth

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Prosperity Without Growth

Economics for a Finite Planet


15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Developing a new economic model that de-emphasizes growth is an ecological imperative.

Editorial Rating



  • Innovative
  • Scientific
  • Background


Gross domestic product (GDP) is a common measure of economic growth. But GDP fails to account fully for the ecological damage that growth wreaks. By prioritizing economic growth, societies based on capitalism permit excessive consumption of oil and other finite natural resources. Growth promotion, for example, has led to an orgy of deregulation that is depleting vital resources and compromising air and water quality. One of the 21st century’s major challenges will be learning to accommodate capitalism without allowing the climate to suffer unsustainable damage. Professor of sustainable development Tim Jackson questions the ecological impact of product innovation, labor productivity and other pillars of modern capitalism. And he’s as thorough as a scientist should be, right down to the mathematically rigorous appendix. The form is good – and so is the content. getAbstract recommends this innovative book to readers seeking insight into the governance and policy challenges of spreading prosperity while safeguarding the environment.


Prosperity Defined

Prosperity is more than material wealth. It is a sense of security that allows people to live happier, more meaningful lives. The benefits of prosperity tend to be societal, not individualistic. Major sources of “shared prosperity” include reasonable access to education and medical care, sustainable consumption of natural resources, clean air and water, and a stable labor market.

Economic output is a far narrower measure of social progress than prosperity. Economists measure output – which has explicit and implicit costs – in terms of gross domestic product (GDP), which represents consumer purchases, business investment and government spending, plus exports minus imports. Consumer purchases are the largest component of GDP.

Strategies that are thoughtlessly preoccupied with growth do not adequately recognize the physical limits of the planet. For example, many government policies nurture consumption at the expense of saving and investing. While GDP measures the private gains earned, for instance, by producing oil, it fails to reflect the public cost of air pollution due to the resulting carbon emissions, or to account completely for the consequences...

About the Author

Tim Jackson is Economics Commissioner on the Sustainable Development Commission, an independent adviser to the U.K. government. He teaches at the University of Surrey and directs the University’s Research group on Lifestyles, Values and Environment.

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