Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Sarkozy speaks

Sarkozy-baiting seems to have become a popular sport in
Western media; the French President is often portrayed
as vain, impulsive, wacky and an embarrassment to his
countrypeople. He may well be all those things but he
consistently challenges received thinking in refreshing
ways—for instance, with his proposal for France’s
economy to be measured not just by the single narrow
yardstick of gross domestic product (gdp) but by other
indicators, such as happiness, well-being and
environmental sustainability. Sarkozy asked Joseph
Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to come up with something more
enlightened than gdp, which as the measure of a society’s
health and wealth should have been ridiculed out of
existence long ago. The two economists have now
delivered a report that recommends measuring ‘progress’
by a much wider range of indicators than purely financial
or income-earning ones. Housework, for instance; access
to education and health services; sporting, cultural and
recreational activities; the cost of environmental damage
and not just the money made from fixing it. (The classic
illustration of gdp’s failings is that, with a major oil tanker
spill, the money spent on cleaning up the mess is counted
as a plus towards economic growth.) But let Sarkozy speak:

A great revolution is waiting for us. For years, people
said that finance was a formidable creator of wealth,
only to discover one day that it accumulated so many
risks that the world almost plunged into chaos...

The crisis doesn't only make us free to imagine other
models, another future, another world. It obliges us to
do so...

If leisure has no accounting value because it's essentially
full of non-market activities like sport or culture, we put
productivity below human fulfilment.

Cripes. Some of us have been waiting all our lives to hear a
national leader speak like that. And what's more, it seems
as though what's being proposed for France will be actually
be put into practice. These are not mere words.


Southernrata said...

Coincidence - I've just downloaded the report and am about to read it with much pleasure

Recommendation 1: When evaluating material well-being, look at income and consumption
rather than production

Recommendation 2: Emphasise the household perspective

Recommendation 3: Consider income and consumption jointly with wealth

Recommendation 4: Give more prominence to the distribution of income, consumption
and wealth

Recommendation 5: Broaden income measures to non-market activities

Read about and downloaded through

Anonymous said...

As the French, or someone French, said in 1968: Be realistic, demand the impossible.

Anonymous said...

nice post. thanks.