Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Go figure

The absurdity of judging economic success in terms
of “gross domestic product” has been exposed again,
this time by the New Zealand Institute of Economic
Research’s alarmist report on the Government's
proposed carbon emissions trading scheme.
According to NZIER chief executive Brent Layton,
reported in the media today, by 2025, when the
scheme is fully implemented, “GDP will fall by almost
$6 billion, household spending will be down by
$3000 per household and hourly wage rates will be
down by $2.30 in today's prices." Oh, and thousands
of jobs will have been lost.

This is like counting apples according to the number
of oranges you have. The whole point about the
concept of “sustainability” which must govern life on
this planet if the human race is to survive, is that the
old measures of “growth” based on production, output
and ever-bigger numbers are useless. They are at best
indicators of the hole we’ve gotten ourselves into. It is
precisely the GDP mentality that lies behind the
looting of natural resources and the consequent
ecological mayhem.

Other, more enlightened measures are available. For
instance, the New Economics Foundation in Britain
has devised a Happy Planet Index which is by no means
as clouds-and-flowers as it sounds. It is best conceived,
as Wikipedia suggests, as a measure of the
environmental efficiency of supporting well-being in
a given country. On this index the country that’s most
got it right in the world is Vanuatu. Colombia is second.
New Zealand is 94th. Go figure. If only the NZIER would.

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