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John Ikerd spent the first half of his thirty-year academic career as a traditional free-market, neoclassical economist. He served on the faculties of four major state universities during his career: North Carolina State University, Oklahoma State University, the University of Georgia, and the University of Missouri. Growing concerns for the lack of ecological, social, and economic sustainability of American agriculture during the 1980s led to broader concerns for the lack of sustainability for American society in general. As an economist, Dr. Ikerd eventually came to understand that growing threats to ecological and social sustainability are rooted in the neoclassical paradigm of economic development, which is inherently extractive and exploitative, and thus, is not sustainable. Dr. Ikerd spent the last half of his academic career and much of his time since retirement developing and testing the concepts and principles of an alternative development paradigm, the economics of sustainability, which are elucidated in this book.
"Writing largely for non-economists, the author seeks to lay out common principles for a sustainable approach to economic matters that recognizes the ways in which natural and societal resources are inevitably degraded by economic activity and borrows, wherever deemed necessary, from capitalist, socialist, and "common-sense" approaches to economic questions. He presents chapters delineating the ecological, social, and economic principles of sustainability; and discusses the key roles of markets and governments in ensuring sustainability. In the end, he points to a mixed planned/market economy that disavows the pursuit of growth as the goal of economic activity.The author eschews any citations to other works, he says, in an effort to minimize any political and cultural bias and to maximize the appeal of the text."