The latest Transition Network Newsletter addresses the question - and looks at a report just come out:
New report: Climate After Growth
New report: Climate After Growth | Transition Network
This notion has been around for some time, but as a 'steady-state' economy:
Herman Edward Daly (born 1938) is an American ecological economist and professor at the School of Public Policy of University of Maryland, College Park in the United States. Daly was Senior Economist in the Environment Department of the World Bank, where he helped to develop policy guidelines related to sustainable development. While there, he was engaged in environmental operations work in Latin America. He is closely associated with theories of a Steady state economy. Before joining the World Bank, Daly was a Research Associate at Yale University, and Alumni Professor of Economics at Louisiana State University. He was a co-founder and associate editor of the journal, Ecological Economics.
Daly is a recipient of an Honorary Right Livelihood Award, the Heineken Prize for Environmental Science from the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, the 1992 University of Louisville Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, the Sophie Prize (Norway), the Leontief Prize from the Global Development and Environment Institute and was chosen as Man of the Year 2008 by Adbusters magazine. He is widely credited with having originated the idea of uneconomic growth, though some credit this to Marilyn Waring who developed it more completely in her study of the UN System of National Accounts.
In 1989 Daly and John B. Cobb developed the Index of Sustainable Economic Welfare (ISEW), which they proposed as a more valid measure of socio-economic progress than gross domestic product.
Perpetual economic growth is neither
possible nor desirable.
Growth, especially in wealthy nations,
is already causing more problems
than it solves.
Recession isn't sustainable or healthy either.
The positive, sustainable alternative is
a steady state economy.
The Club of Rome's 1972 Report is still generating debate:
Limits to Growth
Exploring the physical limits to economic growth
Limits to Growth
Exploring the physical limits to economic growth
Resilience and the Steady-State Economy: Japan's Sustainability Lessons from the 2011 Disasters and a Declining Population
And when it comes to having a steady-state economy, Japan has another advantage -- our experience with the Edo Period. The Edo Period lasted for 265 years, from 1603 to 1867. During that time, the country was closed to the world and experienced no foreign invasions. The country made a tremendous effort to sustain by itself without depending on anything from overseas. It was also quite a peaceful time, with almost no domestic conflicts. In this backdrop, Japan developed its own unique economy and culture.
The country's total population was stable at some 30 million for two and a half centuries, without large fluctuations. Because of its closed-door policy, Japan did not import anything from other countries, but relied on domestic energy and resources. Eisuke Ishikawa, a leading researcher on the Edo Period, estimated that the annual economic growth rate those days was about 0.4 percent. People would not have perceived any economic growth in a lifetime, considering the life expectancy of the time. In that sense, we can say it was a "steady-state economy."
In the Edo Period, people valued the idea of sufficiency, or "taru wo shiru" in Japanese, and they fostered a wonderful and unique culture in the context of an economy and society that was not continually growing. Westerners who visited Japan at the end of the Edo Period left behind many writings praising the Japanese, saying "How polite and cheerful they are, and how happy they look." Of course, the country was not a utopia and had many problems, just like other countries. But still, it can be held up as a model as a sustainable society that used domestic resources sustainably to maintain itself for 265 years.
[Newsletter] Resilience and the Steady-State Economy: Japan's Sustainability Lessons from the 2011 Disasters and a Declining Population | Japan for Sustainability
Japan: The World’s First Post-Growth Economy?
Professor Norihiro Kato recently suggested that Japanese youth culture was doing just that, downsizing and taking a more measured approach to consumerism. Japan’s population had already levelled off, he noted. He even suggested Japan was entering a post-growth era. “Japan is a small country” people are saying, “and we’re O.K. with small. It is, perhaps, a sort of maturity.”
Environmnental campaigner Junko Edahiro agreed that young Japanese are beginning to aspire to “a kind of prosperity not based on resources.” You might expect that from Adbusters magazine, but how about this from the Financial Times: “If the business of a state is to project economic vigour, then Japan is failing badly” wrote David Pilling. “But if it is to keep its citizens employed, safe, economically comfortable and living longer lives, it is not making such a terrible hash of things.”
The idea of "post-growth economics" is gaining ground:
A POST-GROWTH ECONOMY FAQ
Post growth is about building on the existing aspects of our world that are sustainable in order to create resilient futures. This includes strengthening ecologically and socially sustainable practices, while recognizing the physical limits of the earth.
How on Earth? Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050 - YouTube
Post Growth Institute - YouTube
Post Growth Institute | From Bigger, Towards Better
In other words, a 'post-growth' economy can be dynamic and entrepreneurial:
The Politics of Actually Existing Unsustainability: Human Flourishing in a Climate Changed, Carbon-Constrained World | John Barry - Academia.edu
Although others would disagree:
Efficiency and entrepreneurship: Key ingredients for infinite growth
And there is the question of how 'de-c0upling' economic growth from any impacts would actually work:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
In economic and environmental fields, decoupling is becoming increasingly used in the context of economic production and environmental quality. When used in this way, it refers to the ability of an economy to grow without corresponding increases in environmental pressure. In many economies, increasing production (GDP) raises pressure on the environment. An economy that is able to sustain GDP growth without having a negative impact on environmental conditions, is said to be decoupled.
In 2011, the International Resource Panel, hosted by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) warned that by 2050, the human race could devour 140 billion tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and biomass per year – three times its current appetite – unless nations can start decoupling economic growth rates from the rate of natural resource consumption. It noted that developed country citizens consume an average of 16 tons of those four key resources per capita (ranging up to 40 or more tons per person in some developed countries). By comparison, the average person in India today consumes four tons per year.
The OECD has made decoupling a major focus of the work of its Environment Directorate. The OECD defines the term as follows: the term 'decoupling' refers to breaking the link between "environmental bads" and "economic goods." It explains this as having rates of increasing wealth greater than the rates of increasing impacts.
'Relative' versus 'absolute' decoupling
Tim Jackson stresses the importance of differentiating between 'relative' and 'absolute' decoupling when using the term.
Relative decoupling refers to a decline in the ecological intensity per unit of economic output. In this situation, resource impacts decline relative to the GDP, which could itself still be rising.
Absolute decoupling refers to a situation in which resource impacts decline in absolute terms. Resource efficiencies must increase at least as fast as economic output does and must continue to improve as the economy grows, if absolute decoupling is to occur.
Jackson points out that an economy can correctly claim that it has relatively decoupled its economy in terms of energy inputs per unit of GDP. However, in this situation, total environmental impacts would still be increasing, albeit at a slower pace of growth than in GDP.
Jackson uses this distinction to caution again technology-optimists who use the term 'decoupling' as an "escape route from the dilemma of growth." He points out that "there is quite a lot of evidence to support the existence of [relative decoupling]" in global economies, however "evidence for [absolute decoupling] is harder to find".
Similarly, Herman Daly (1991, p118) states "It is true that "In 1969 a dollar's worth of GNP was produced with one-half the materials used to produce a dollar's worth of 1900 GNP, in constant dollars." Nevertheless, over the same period total materials by consumption increased by 400 percent."