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Green CapitalA New Perspective on Growth$
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Christian de Perthuis and Pierre-André Jouvet

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780231171403

Published to Columbia Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.7312/columbia/9780231171403.001.0001

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The Spaceship Problem

The Spaceship Problem

An Optimal Population Size?

Chapter:
(p.18) 2 The Spaceship Problem
Source:
Green Capital
Author(s):

Christian de Perthuis

Pierre-André Jouvet

, Michael Westlake
Publisher:
Columbia University Press
DOI:10.7312/columbia/9780231171403.003.0003

If the limits imposed by natural capital seem to be closing in on the human species, is it not primarily a problem of numbers? In a 1966 article, the essayist Kenneth Boulding introduced this issue using the image of “spaceship Earth” loaded with passengers. This novel concept gave rise to abundant literature by economists seeking to define the “optimal” size of the population. What lessons can be drawn from the literature discussing the question of what constitutes the desirable number of occupants aboard this shared spaceship?

Keywords:   Spaceship problem, Boulding, optimal population, Bentham, Rawls

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