The Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy (CASSE) lists the following five essays as the principal theoretical foundations of steady state economics.

1. Boulding, Kenneth. 1966. “The Economics of the Coming Spaceship Earth” in H. Jarrett (ed.), Environmental Quality in a Growing Economy, pp. 3-14. Resources for the Future/Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, Maryland.

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.

2. Hardin, Garrett. 1968. “Tragedy of the Commons” Science, volume 162, pages 1243-1248.

The tragedy of the commons develops in this way. Picture a pasture open to all. It is to be expected that each herdsman will try to keep as many cattle as possible on the commons… …the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another…. But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit — in a world that is limited. Ruin is the destination toward which all men rush, each pursuing his own best interest in a society that believes in the freedom of the commons. Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.

3. Mill, John Stuart. 1848. “Of The Stationary State,” Book IV, Chapter VI in Principles of Political Economy: With Some of Their Applications to Social Philosophy, J.W. Parker, London, England.

It is scarcely necessary to remark that a stationary condition of capital and population implies no stationary state of human improvement. There would be as much scope as ever for all kinds of mental culture, and moral and social progress; as much room for improving the Art of Living, and much more likelihood of its being improved, when minds ceased to be engrossed by the art of getting on. Even the industrial arts might be as earnestly and as successfully cultivated, with this sole difference, that instead of serving no purpose but the increase of wealth, industrial improvements would produce their legitimate effect, that of abridging labour. Hitherto [1848] it is questionable if all the mechanical inventions yet made have lightened the day’s toil of any human being. They have enabled a greater population to live the same life of drudgery and imprisonment, and an increased number of manufacturers and others to make fortunes. They have increased the comforts of the middle classes. But they have not yet begun to effect those great changes in human destiny, which it is in their nature and in their futurity to accomplish. Only when, in addition to just institutions, the increase of mankind shall be under the deliberate guidance of judicious foresight, can the conquests made from the powers of nature by the intellect and energy of scientific discoverers become the common property of the species, and the means of improving and elevating the universal lot.

4. Schumacher, E.F. 1966. “Buddhist Economics” in Guy Wint (ed.), Asia: A Handbook, Anthony Blond Ltd., London, U.K.

Modern economics does not distinguish between renewable and non-renewable materials, as its very method is to equalise and quantify everything by means of a money price. Thus, taking various alternative fuels, like coal, oil, wood, or water-power: the only difference between them recognised by modern economics is relative cost per equivalent unit. The cheapest is automatically the one to be preferred, as to do otherwise would be irrational and “uneconomic.” From a Buddhist point of view, of course, this will not do; the essential difference between non-renewable fuels like coal and oil on the one hand and renewable fuels like wood and water-power on the other cannot be simply overlooked. Non-renewable goods must be used only if they are indispensable, and then only with the greatest care and the most meticulous concern for conservation. To use them heedlessly or extravagantly is an act of violence, and while complete non-violence may not be attainable on this earth, there is nonetheless an ineluctable duty on man to aim at the ideal of non-violence in all he does.

5. Vitousek, Peter, Paul Ehrlich, Anne Ehrlich, and Pam Matson. 1986. “Human Appropriation of the Products of Photosynthesis“, Bioscience 36:368-373.

On land the situation appears very different. We estimate that organic material equivalent to about 40% of the present net primary production in terrestrial ecosystems is being co-opted by human beings each year. People use this material directly or indirectly, it flows to different consumers and decomposers than it otherwise would, or it is lost because of human-caused changes in land use. People and associated organisms use this organic material largely, but not entirely, at human direction, and the vast majority of other species must subsist on the remainder. An equivalent concentration of resources into one species and its satellites has probably not occurred since land plants first diversified.