It’s True: One Million Dollars to a Young Steady Statesman

by Brian Czech

Advancing the steady state economy takes money! Yes, there’s a tinge of irony there, but only a tinge. Money gets spent in growing, steady state, and degrowing economies. The question is, who spends it and on what?

For example, we all know Wall Street isn’t lining up to spend it on CASSE or the broader steady state movement.

Well, a new day is born. One Dick Smith has stepped to the plate and offered “$1 million to go to a young person under 30 who can impress me by becoming famous through his or her ability to show leadership in communicating an alternative to our population and consumption growth-obsessed economy.” We might call such leadership steady statesmanship.

Dick Smith is searching for a true steady statesman.

Who is Dick Smith? He was the Australian of the Year in 1986, the founder of Australian Geographic, and an Ambassador for the Council for Aboriginal Reconciliation. Evidently he’s a good fellow who made a lot of money in retailing and publishing, then turned it toward good causes instead of conspicuous consumption. A 21st century William Wilberforce, of sorts.

Here’s what Smith has to say in introducing his Wilberforce Award: “It has become obvious to me that my generation has over exploited our wonderful world – and it’s younger people who will pay the price. Like many people my age, I’ve benefited from a long period of constant economic and population growth – we are addicted to it. But sooner or later this consumption growth will have an end. We appear to be already bumping against the limits of what our planet can sustain and the evidence is everywhere to see.”

Thank goodness someone who was so immersed in the world of economic growth didn’t have their common sense drowned. “The evidence is everywhere to see,” indeed! Here’s a fellow with not only the sense to recognize the problem, but also the guts to acknowledge it. But he doesn’t stop there; he puts his money where his mouth is.

At CASSE, we encourage the younger generation (many of whom are CASSE members, volunteers, or signatories) to go for it! Practice your steady statesmanship and win the Wilberforce Award. We’ll be thinking of ways to help, but like Dick Smith, you’ll need plenty of sense and guts. You’ll be devoting a lot time, with no guarantee of compensation, and you’ll have to expose your efforts to public scrutiny to take home the prize.

Even if you don’t win, though, you can take pride in your public service. At CASSE, we may even issue an award or two of our own.

Meanwhile, may the best steady statesmanship win!

Read more about the Wilberforce Award.

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8 replies
  1. Sandwichman
    Sandwichman says:

    I’ve got a nominee! He is 29-year old artist, Taikkun Yang Li. Taikkun conceived the “prayer wheel energy generator” not as an “alternative green energy” source but as a symbol of the need to change human attitudes, very much in the spirit of E.F. Schumacher’s “Buddhist economics”. Taikkun is collaborating on a Vancouver event for the Global Work Party on October 10 (10/10/10). The Vancouver event is called “Reinventing the (Prayer) Wheel” and is described at There is also a facebook page at

  2. Sharon
    Sharon says:

    Its brilliant!

    Given who he is and his position, it is incredibly brave of Dick Smith to breach the taboos of growth and population, and place them on the public agenda for debate.

    I do wish he had not put the age criteria in though – the prize he is offering would free up 40 hours of my brain a week…!

  3. Joshua
    Joshua says:

    Yea, this is great. I’m lucky enough to qualify, and so are a few other steady staters that I know, so hopefully we can band together and start a real movement around this!

    Check out my response to Dick:

    (should be a comment up on his website once it’s through moderation)


  4. Alex
    Alex says:

    Isn’t holding out a vast sum of money as a reward for this (admittedly laudable) goal of producing articulate states(people) buying into ‘their’ world view? Seriously, I have some brutal student loans, but one million dollars? How does someone with a modicum of integrity posit a world view based on other than capital accumulation and greed and then take the money as a reward for positing a world view based on something other that greed and amassing money and all the stuff that goes with it? I only think it will serve to undermine whomever wins it. If I was a snappy young cub reporter, I’d be going after the hypocrisy, whether real or apparent. This falls right into the “Al Gore lives in a big house and jets around the world” category. Sorry, but I think this is a bad idea.

  5. locojhon
    locojhon says:

    @Alex–brilliant–a very well stated criticism, indeed.
    What I am very surprised in seeing is what seems to be a generalized agreement that a steady-state economy is even possible–in a world where virtually nothing else is steady-state.
    It’s a nice dream, though.
    In order to believe it possible, one has to ignore the problem of ever-growing populations, demanding and then consuming ever-more goods, services and nature in all its forms–on a finite planet rapidly running out of almost everything except our pollutive wastes. Unless the steady-state is a steady-state of constant de-growth percentage–that is not really a steady-state anything–I really can’t see it happening. (I’ll be interested to see what the entries might be–wow–a million bucks for modern fiction.)
    Personally, I think the contest ought to be open for people of all ages, and the purpose to develop strategies to reduce the impacts of what we are about to experience in the very near future, likely triggered by the effects of peak oil. Dr Albert Bartlett describes it better than most here: when he instructs about the exponential function and the impact of growth on our world.
    That lecture alone ought to convince all but the most ardent hopeful that a steady-state economy is not in our future.
    Strap on your brain-buckets folks–it’s going to be a bumpy ride.

  6. Jennifer
    Jennifer says:

    Dear Alex

    What a sad view.

    Do you think we can grow forever, or is it just something your happy to let future generation worry about?

  7. Carl
    Carl says:

    @locojhon – Steady state refers to having a dynamic equilibrium of economy size relative to impacts, population etc- this is as I understand it. I have just downloaded the easy to understand briefing papers under the ‘discover’ tab above. Something I think that would be an important first step before making the judgements that it seems you have made.

    @Alex – your comments reflect a cynicism (that could be justified), but has an absence of anything to declare, or a desire to have a different future. Best sit back whilst someone else takes care of it? How well has that gone for us collectively so far?

    I think we need to welcome engagement and things that spark conversations and actions about what an economy is for, and looks like.


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