A Tribute to Herman Daly

BPEI Mourns the loss of Herman Daly

Herman Daly, one of our very most important intellectual leaders, died Oct. 28 at a hospital in Richmond. He was 84.   He was awarded the Right Livelihood Award for “defining a path of ecological economics that integrates the key elements of ethics, quality of life, environment and community.” 

Herman Daly understood the fundamental discrepancies between conventional economics and the natural sciences better than nearly any other investigator.   

While Herman was very much an economist, he thought in a clear, basic way that most natural scientists can be quite comfortable with.   For example, he said that economists see nature as a subset of the economy such that one can put a price upon it for inclusion into larger economic calculations of value.  The reality, however, is the converse.  Our economy is a subset of nature that operates within nature’s boundaries, limits and possibilities. 

But Herman Daly was even more interested in both why we perform economic analyses and why we choose to neglect certain inputs and output.   He argued that economists constantly confused means and ends, most importantly where economic growth, a means to the ends of human welfare, became an end in itself. It was obvious to Daly that we needed to focus on the real problems of improving human welfare.   An important part of this would be replacing more materialistic goals with more humane and spiritual ones, the latter especially important to Herman.   

Herman Daly is most widely known for an antidote to that, the concept of “steady state economics”, an approach to economics that does not rely on growth to be successful.  This approach is essential as we transition, as he said, from an “empty” to a “full” world. 

Herman Daly was professor emeritus at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy. Dr. Daly taught economics for two decades at Louisiana State University, in addition to lecturing around the world. He was a senior economist at the World Bank from 1988 to 1994 before joining the University of Maryland. He authored and co-authored numerous books and articles. He was co-founder and associate editor of the journal Ecological Economics.

We will miss Herman and his continued guidance to our members, intellect and grace.  He was a Southern Gentleman in the best sense of the term.  And he deserved the Nobel Prize in economics.



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