Measuring sustainable economic welfare

Philip Lawn

    Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

    1 Citation (Scopus)


    My initial aim in this chapter is to put forward a narrow definition of sustainable development to assist in the measurement of a nation’s sustainable development performance. To do this, I will adopt an ‘economic’ view of human development. This doesn’t mean that non-economic factors critical to human well-being should be overlooked. However, a narrowly-focused approach can serve as a pragmatic means of overcoming the complexities associated with measuring a condition as broad as sustainable development. As is evidenced in this book so far, sustainable development means different things to different people. For the purposes of this chapter, sustainable development will be defined as non-declining economic welfare. A definition of this sort infers two things about sustainable development. First, a nation must take the appropriate steps to ensure its current economic welfare is not declining. Secondly, a nation must take the necessary action to ensure its economic welfare can be sustained into the future. The important point here is that action taken to prevent economic welfare from declining in the present need not be commensurate with the action needed to sustain economic welfare indefinitely. For example, depleting natural resource stocks to increase current consumption levels may increase a nation’s current economic welfare, but it reduces a nation’s capacity to sustain its economic welfare into the future.

    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationHandbook of Sustainable Development
    Subtitle of host publicationSecond Edition
    PublisherEdward Elgar
    Number of pages23
    ISBN (Electronic)9781782544708
    ISBN (Print)9781782544692
    Publication statusPublished - 2014


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