A Rejoinder to Wilfred Beckerman and Herman Daly

According to Wilfred Beckerman, environmental considerations provide no grounds whatsoever for concern about the physical conditions under which future generations will have to live. In his opinion, a study of Sustainable National Income (SNI) designed to estimate the distance between actual and sustainable levels of production and consumption is therefore entirely superfl uous. The value of such a study rests, moreover, so Beckerman holds, on the erroneous notion that rights can be conferred upon future generations. Any undertaking on behalf of such generations can at best be based on ‘imperfect obligations’ borne of moral considerations.

Let me start with the second point. Conferring rights has nothing whatsoever to do with studying Sustainable National Income. The SNI according to Hueting is not based on the rights of future generations, nor on inter-generational equity, but on the preferences of the present generation for handing down the vital functions of our physical surroundings (the environment) intact to generations to come. There are two grounds for assuming such preferences. First, the existence of ‘blockages’ preventing these preferences from being expressed (Hueting and de Boer 2001b). Second, the postulate that ‘man derives part of the meaning of existence from the company of others'. These others include in any case his children and grandchildren. The prospect of a safer future is therefore a normal human need, and dimming of this prospect has a negative effect on welfare’ (Hueting 1987).


Production Growth National Income Environmental Kuznets Curve Supply Curve Ecological Economic 
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© Springer Science + Business Media B.V 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Environmental StatisticsCentral Bureau of Statistics (CBS)The HagueThe Netherlands.

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