Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Changing Perspective on Performance Metrics (NewtonBlog)

GDP Narrowly Focuses on Wealth, Forgets Happiness

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) refers to the value of all finished goods and services produced within a country in a set period. Among economists, GDP is often considered to be the best measurement of a country's success. When calculated per capita, it is thought to be an excellent indicator of a country's standard of living. But is it really?

Speaking on Gross National Product - a statistic almost identical to GDP - Robert Kennedy said the following in 1968:

Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl...

...Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.

Robert Kennedy was quite correct, GNP and GDP are hamstrung by their narrow focus on material wealth.

At TEDGlobal 2010, Nic Marks shared global surveys revealing that humans value happiness, love, and health far more than wealth. Perhaps these attributes would be better indicators of a country's success. Thankfully, there are other indices that include these factors, and it's time we gave them our attention. 

No comments: