Over my twenty years at the Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA) at New York University, I authored or co-authored four books on subjects that are still timely: military spending, automation and the displacement of workers, environmental degradation, and inequality. These four issues have been transformed over time, but they still constitute the main challenges to achieving sustainable development.
The first two books are joint with Wassily Leontief, the creator of input-output economics, whose broader vision clearly anticipated the modern fields of environmental sustainability and economic development.
I have a handful of copies of these books to give away—please contact me if interested.
Military Spending: Facts and Figures, Worldwide Implications and Future Outlook (w/ W. Leontief, Oxford 1983)
There is still no information about the military economy in standard economic databases, including the input-output databases, which are compiled at national statistical offices. Written during the Cold War, the military economy is visible by introducing into the database a number of sectors producing output exclusively for military purposes. This made it possible to explicitly represent the geography of bilateral international trade in arms and related goods and services at that time. We formulated alternative scenarios to explore impacts on civilian economies in the event of both further increases, and of significant reductions, in military spending. Today the cast of central characters has expanded, and the specific military goods and services are different, but the dangers and the prospects for increased military spending are great. It would be useful to explore how increased military spending would crowd out the resources needed to deliver on sustainable development goals to make explicit the trade-offs between the two.
The Future Impact of Automation on Workers (w/ W. Leontief, Oxford 1986)
An assessment of the impacts of automation on workers in the United States over the period 1970 through 2000. Case studies for each major form of automation assembled the data to quantify scenarios about technological changes, with particular attention to the impacts of employment requirements for different categories of workers. (In my current work, I describe a systematic case study research strategy to provide kinds of data needed for analysis but not otherwise available.) Today this challenge has a new urgency associated with the vast and still broadening range of capabilities associated with artificial intelligence. These concerns are intensified by the experience during the last three decades of dramatic shifts in the international division of labor following the spread of these technologies. Today developing countries are concerned to create industrial jobs for human workers, not jobs that will quickly be automated using imported equipment. A contemporary study could take on the prospects for job creation and the associated distribution of income.
The Future of the Environment: Ecological Economics and Technological Change (w/ G.-M. Lange, Oxford 1994)
The book examines the potential for reducing emissions associated with changes in the use of energy and materials under what we call the Our Common Future (OCF) scenario. The empirical data for quantifying scenario assumptions, in particular technological options for how electricity is generated in different economies or for construction materials, are organized in the form of ten case studies compiled from the technical literature. We conclude that the OCF assumptions about the kinds of actions that can readily be taken indeed substantially reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, and the other gases studied, in the period through 2020, relative to pursuing the same development objectives in the absence of the recommended changes. However, many developing countries would need to incur significant debt in the absence of economic assistance. Even when these steps are taken, the OCF scenario shows increases in emissions, meaning that the measures are not adequate to achieve the intended objectives. My research over the past dozen years on various aspects of sustainable development has built on this initial study.
Structural Economics: Measuring Change in Technology, Lifestyles and the Environment (Island Press 1998)
A basic introduction to input-output economics, emphasizing its focus on economic structure. It describes the structure of household activities, technologies, and environmental challenges and provides simple models for calculating the implications of structural changes. While my other publications have delved deeper into technologies, resource use, and environmental problems, this is the first time I address the social dimension of sustainable development directly by distinguishing consumption patterns of different types of households. Based on the statistical analysis of a great deal of data from diverse origins, marketers have come up with a few dozen household categories, such that households in each category tend to have similar social values and behaviors and similar purchasing patterns. My idea was to use this kind of bottom-up approach to deduce household taxonomies rather than classifications based on one or a small number of variables, such as household income. I find that little if any progress has been made in the development of household classifications since that time and that such taxonomies will be needed to explore the likely impacts of scenarios about changes in lifestyles that are specific to sub-groups of the population of a given region.