By Sam Pizzigati / Inequality.org
Great thinkers, down through the ages, have regularly had to watch the movers and shakers of their epochs shrug off their core insights. One of our contemporary great thinkers who suffered that fate — the 84-year-old economist Herman Daly — died just last week. Daly did not, to be sure, go totally unrecognized during his lifetime. In 1996, he won the “alternate Nobel Prize,” Sweden’s annual Right Livelihood Award.
“Herman Daly redefined economics, forging a way forward that does not include the destruction of our environment for economic gain,” Ole von Uexkull, Right Livelihood’s executive director, noted after Daly’s passing. But that passing has, by and large, gone unnoticed, at least in the major media, with no obit appearing until well after his death.
Despite this media disinterest, Daly most certainly does figure to get much more attention in the years ahead. Why? The life’s work of this University of Maryland emeritus professor just happens to directly link the two supreme challenges of our time: environmental collapse and economic inequality. Herman Daly pioneered the discipline of ecological economics. He gave us a vision — in works always “crystal clear, conceptually compelling” — of a “steady state economy” that featured “redistribution and qualitative improvement instead of perpetual growth” sure to overload and overwhelm our environment.
We need, Daly believed, to reject “having ever more” and revolve our lives instead around having enough, and that means sharing, a virtue today, he observed, often derided as “class warfare.” But real “class warfare,” Daly noted a decade ago, “will not result from sharing, but from the greed of elites who promote growth because they capture nearly all of the benefits from it, while ‘sharing’ only the costs.”…