Spaceship earth

«The closed earth of the future requires economic principles which are somewhat different from those of the open earth of the past.

For the sake of picturesqueness, I am tempted to call the open economy the “cowboy economy,” the cowboy being symbolic of the illimitable plains and also associated with reckless, exploitative, romantic, and violent behavior, which is characteristic of open societies.

The closed economy of the future might similarly be called the “spaceman” economy, in which the earth has become a single spaceship, without unlimited reservoirs of anything, either for extraction or for pollution, and in which, therefore, man must find his place in a cyclical ecological system which is capable of continuous reproduction of material form even though it cannot escape having inputs of energy.

The difference between the two types of economy becomes most apparent in the attitude towards consumption.

In the cowboy economy, consumption is regarded as a good thing and production likewise; and the success of the economy is measured by the amount of tile throughput from the “factors of production,” a part of which, at any rate, is extracted from the reservoirs of raw materials and noneconomic objects, and another part of which is output into the reservoirs of pollution. (…)»

– “THE ECONOMICS OF THE COMING SPACESHIP EARTH” by Kenneth E. Boulding, 1966

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