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Leontief Home | Other Recipients

2001 Leontief Prize
Awarded to Herman E. Daly & Paul P. Streeten

(Akshay Madhavan, MALD '02, from the Fletcher Ledger - November 19, 2001 issue)

On Tuesday, November 13, Dr. Herman E. Daly and Dr. Paul P. Streeten were awarded The Global Development And Environmental Institute"s (GDAE) Leontief Prize for Advancing the Frontiers of Economic Thought. The prize is named after the famed economist Wassily Leontief, who sought connections between different disciplines and attempted to transcend a narrow definition of economics. The award seeks to recognize outstanding achievements that "address contemporary realities and support just and sustainable societies." The Leontief Prize was established in 2000, and its first recipients were Dr. Amartya Sen and Dr. John Kenneth Galbraith.

Fletcher Professor Bill Moomaw (co-chair of GDAE) and Tufts President Lawrence Bacow introduced Daly and Streeten with high praise for the recipients" academic and professional achievements. Dr. Neva Goodwin (co-chair of GDAE) [see text of Goodwin's comments] also pointed out that Daly and Streeten have both worked at the World Bank, and have contributed to the attempts of the World Bank to address issues of poverty and sustainability. GDAE's latest publication, "A Survey of Sustainable Development" is dedicated to the recipients of the Leontief Prize.

Dr. Paul Streeten, Professor Emeritus at Boston University, whose biographical highlights are lengthy enough to serve as an independent article, addressed the issues of environmental protection and sustainability. [see text of Streeten's comments] He posited that development and environmental sustainability are in harmony and not in conflict with each other (This presupposes a proper, all-encompassing definition of development). He stated that economic growth (measured as GDP) should not be the end objective of societies, but rather a by-product of thoughtful policy aimed at improving the environment and ameliorating social inequality. He divided all goods and services into "goods", "bads", and "anti-bads" (goods produced to counter bads). He then pointed out that societies have four choices to enhance environmental protection.

Dr. Paul Streeten

1. Produce fewer goods, consequently fewer bads (zero growth)

2. Produce more goods, consequently more bads, and also more anti-bads (the rate of growth then depends on how you count the anti-bads)

3. Produce even more goods and bads (high growth)

4. Produce different kinds of goods, like environmentally friendly cars

Streeten emphasized the need to go beyond the traditional view of the production possibilities frontier. He concluded by distinguishing soft sustainability proponents (those who want to maintain the sustainability of outputs), from hard sustainability proponents (those who want to maintain the sustainability of inputs). He pointed out that Dr. Daly fell into the latter category.

Dr. Herman Daly

Dr. Herman Daly, currently a professor at the University of Maryland, addressed issues of scale economics, environmental sustainability, and social equity. [see text of Daly's comments] He criticized neoclassical economics for emphasizing economic scale, without being concerned with the potential natural and environmental scarcity and degradation. He contended that economics ignores social equity and environmental sustainability, and argued for a more thorough study of the costs and benefits of actions rather than merely the benefits.

Daly pointed out that macroeconomics is part of the ecosystem, not an independent entity itself. Within this ecosystem, he emphasized the need for social equity, claiming that irresponsible economic growth may lead to "illth" and not wealth. He called on wealthier countries to address this problem with several redistribution (transfer from rich to poor) and recomposition (transfer from private goods to public goods) solutions. Daly criticized the IMF, World Bank, and WTO for a one-dimensional view of economic growth, without a consideration for the equity and environmental impacts of such growth.

The most remarkable aspect of both speeches was the speakers" willingness to transcend the shackles of a uni-disciplinary approach. Both Daly and Streeten are trained economists, but did not hesitate to point to weaknesses in their discipline. Their multi-disciplinary approach was a refreshing welcome to addressing global concerns. It is for this reason that they are deserving recipients of the Leontief Prize. Such innovative ideas might be at the periphery of today"s thought; undoubtedly it is at the frontier of future thought and action.

Akshay Madhavan was a Fletcher student. He was studying International Environmental Policy and International Finance at Fletcher. For further media coverage of the Leontief Event:


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