Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How to Measure What Really Matters

Forty years ago this week, Robert Kennedy gave his famous speech questioning the GDP. An economic yardstick sounds like a topic of -- shall we say -- limited interest for most people.

But it turns out to be a critical question. If you orient your policies around one measure of success, it better be a good one, and the Gross Domestic Product is not.

Kennedy points out in his speech that it is not "economic growth" that matters most, and that economic growth does not necessarily result in the things that do matter -- like healthy children, clean air, a meaningful life. If you care about those things, you make different sorts of policies -- ones that invest in long-term well being which may, or may not, be associated with economic expansion.

It's a topic YES! has been on about for years. YES! board chair, David Korten, wrote about it in the summer '06 issue of YES! Living Wealth: Better than Money, and in Money Versus Wealth back in our spring 1997 issue, and more recently, contributing editor Jon Rowe wrote about it in his article entitled The Hidden Commons.

Jon Rowe will be among those testifying this week at a congressional hearing on the shortcomings of the GDP. The Glaser Progress Foundation is focusing on this question, and a new video of a portion of Robert Kennedy's speech, with images that illustrate why this matters so much, is now up on YouTube.

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