21 Nov '11, 5am

Theses on Sustainability | Orion Magazine

Theses on Sustainability | Orion Magazine

THAT A DISTINCTION can usefully be drawn between wants and needs seems obvious. Mainstream economics, however, refuses to countenance such a distinction. (Marxist economics does, which, from the viewpoint of an ecologically enlightened economics, is one of the few ways in which it is distinguishable from its neoclassical alternative.) The work of Wilfred Pareto was crucial to this refusal. His contribution to economic theory marks a turning point in the evolution (some would say devolution) of nineteenth-century political economy into the highly mathematized discipline of economics as we know it today. Pareto’s novel idea: because satisfactions and pleasures are subjective—because no one among us can say with certainty, “I like ice cream more than you do”—there is no rational way to compare the degree of pleasure that different people will gain by satisfying desires. All w...

Full article: http://www.orionmagazine.org/index.php/articles/article/5502

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