Markets, Productivity, and Happiness in a Historical Perspective

Energy efficiency, productivity, happiness and the Jevons paradox

Trincado Estrella, Universidad Complutense de Madrid
Vindel José María, independent scholar

In the 1865' book The Coal Question, the English economist William Stanley Jevons described a celebrated paradox. Watt’s steam engine was widely introduced in different industries, but, as Jevons literally says in page 140: “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth”. Resource efficiency, while reducing the cost of production, will decrease the marginal utility of the commodities that use the given resource, increasing directly the consumption of those commodities and indirectly the consumption of other commodities with which they are exchanged. Then, resource efficiency is not a good path to the lesser use of resources. With this, Jevons came back to the classical economics idea of the stationary state. Based on this literature, this presentation deals with the Jevons paradox in an evolutionary and contemporary way.


Keywords: energy efficiency, Jevons paradox, ecology, marginalism

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