Herman Daly has been warning his readers of the dangers of unrestrained growth longer than some of them have been alive! He is a tireless, thoughtful, and informed proponent of sustainable economic policy who has enjoyed more success than most growth heretics, as attested by his six years at the World Bank. But, like other heretics - whether of growth or of other dogmas - his teachings are largely ignored or ridiculed by the pharisees of proper thought. No doubt his professional status has been diminished by the stand he has taken. Felicitously, we don't burn heretics at the stake these days for undermining archaic beliefs purblindly held or the anti-growth movement might have its first martyr. In "Beyond Growth" Daly puts forth his beliefs in a concise and readable way. I found the first few chapters a bit heavy on economic theory and terminology (Daly is after all an economist first and foremost), but once that necessary underpinning has been laid Daly goes on to discuss growth-related topics (population, international trade, ethics) in terms more familiar to the layman, expressed in a thought-provoking and even moving way. Daly not only knows, he cares. The final chapter of the book, in which he attempts to meld the concept of stewardship common to most religions with principles of sustainable development, suggests Daly's concern for growth-addicted humanity springs from a religious upbringing. If he has forsaken some of the dogmatic teachings of his youth, he has retained the kernel of the faith, a devotion to Truth and the well-being of his fellow man, to which he adheres as firmly as did his Renaissance predecessor in heresy. Such adhesion brought Bruno martyrdom at the stake; for Daly it is more likley to bring ultimate recognition as one of the most forward-thinking intellectuals of his time.
Herman Daly fills a spiritual void in the field of economics. He explains how current capitalist economic theories dependent on unlimited growth are not only destructive to the environmental resource base upon which the economy depends, but also morally indifferent to unwanted side effects such as the unequal distribution of wealth. The strength of Daly's work is such that it may help bring two important advocacy groups that are not normally associated we each other--environmentalists and Christians--together into a powerful constituency.