Friday, May 2, 2008

Think again

Further to my blog of last Tuesday ("Go figure"), I have
belatedly caught up with the news that one of the first
things Nicolas Sarkozy did on becoming President of
France last year was to ask economists Amartya Sen
and Joseph Stiglitz to advise the French Government
on the way in which it calculates its economic and
social well-being.

Well, good on him. Whatever his politics, Sarkozy has
shown a refreshing willingness to think outside the
square. He has also announced that advertising will be
removed from state television channels. Dare we hope
that a New Zealand government would ever do the
same? Dans nos rĂªves.

A recent opinion piece in Time argues that GDP is still
far and away the most reliable measure we have of a
nation’s prosperity but let’s see what Sen and Stiglitz
come up with. Every time someone objects to more
enlightened means of measurement, one cannot escape
the feeling that, just as the big oil companies were
reluctant to develop less quick-profit alternatives to
fossil fuels, so alternatives to GDP don’t suit the people
with most to gain from exhorting us all to produce more,
spend more, waste more.

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