Distributional issues in ecological economics

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The economic values which nontraded and traded environmental goods and services, or negative externalities, might be given, depend (in different ways) on the distribution of income. Income-elasticity (in actual or surrogate markets) might be greater for environmental “amenities” than for environmental “necessities.” Therefore, a redistribution of income would have effects on the demand of environmental goods and services. But this is not the main line of this paper, which is more focused on the “supply side.” From the “supply side,” the distribution of income (and of property rights) will determine (in a Sraffian-like manner) the value (or rather, the “production prices”) of traded “natural capital.” However, most environmental goods and services are not in the market. In this respect, the paper introduces the concept of “ecological distribution,” i.e. the social, spatial, and temporal asymmetries in the access to natural resources or in the burdens of pollution (whether traded or not), and it considers the relations between economic distribution and ecological distribution. In other words, the paper discusses the relations between Political Economy and Political Ecology. The paper also includes a section on the appropriate discount rate which would be that determined by the “sustainable” productivity of capital; but the measure of sustainability depends on the measure of depreciation of “natural capital,” and the measure of “natural capital” depends on the allocation of property rights, and on the distribution of income. The final section explores the links between distributional issues and economic incommensurability. © 1995 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-528
JournalReview of Social Economy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 1995


  • Ecological distribution
  • Economic incommensurability
  • Ecuador, discount rate
  • International externalities
  • Natural capital
  • Political ecology


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