Does the invisible hand have a green thumb? Incentives, linkages, and the creation of wealth out of industrial waste in Victorian England
Author: DESROCHERS, PIERRE
Source: The Geographical Journal, Volume 175, Number 1, March 2009 , pp. 3-16(14)
Abstract:`Loop closing', that is, the creation of waste recycling linkages between different industries, has been hailed as a means of simultaneously achieving improved economic and environmental performance. As a result of the widespread assumption that traditional market incentives and institutions are not conducive to such an outcome, however, there remains a fair amount of scepticism as to what the capacity of business self-interest to promote this behaviour actually is. This article challenges the dominant negative perspective by discussing by-product development in one of the most market-oriented societies in human history, Victorian England. Building on nineteenth and early twentieth century writings on the topic, as well as a more detailed analysis of the development of valuable by-products from highly problematic iron and coal gas production residuals, a case is made that the search for increased profitability within the context of private property rights often simultaneously promoted economic and environmental progress in the long run, as well as on different geographical scales.
Document Type: Research article
Publication date: 2009-03-01