Don’t you just love organisations like this? Where the thinking not just overturns conventional wisdom but allows us to see the real sum of us? Below, there’s an excerpt from the home page of the Genuine Progress Index and part of the reason it makes such welcome reading is its departure from the aridity of economic thought. Its work allows us to see society in all its fullness and its ‘tool shop’ has already made some startling findings: This just an excerpt, but if you have the time do go to the GPI site at http://www.gpiatlantic.org/gpi.htm .
GPI starts where societies should. It says:
‘To build a sustainable economy, we need tools of analysis that properly value social, economic and environmental assets, tools that carefully appraise both costs and benefits, and balance them against one another. That's what's known as "full-cost accounting." And that's what the Genuine Progress Index is designed to provide. What's wrong with the tools we're using now?’ And away it goes:
‘Today, the most commonly-used measure of economic progress is still the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which is simply the total value of all the goods and services that are exchanged for money. The GDP literally does not count some of our greatest sources of wealth - unpaid household labour, volunteerism, and a clean environment, for example.
‘Worse, the GDP doesn't distinguish between good things and bad ones - and it counts the depletion of our natural wealth as economic gain.
‘Crime, war, pollution, tobacco smoking, and car accidents all cause people to spend money - and so they all increase the GDP. The more trees we fell, the more fish we catch, the more fossil fuels we burn, the more greenhouse gases we emit, the more the GDP increases.
‘And the GDP only reports how much income we produce - but not how that income is distributed. So the GDP can increase even while the poor get poorer and the gap between rich and poor grows.
‘No wonder the GDP leaves citizens and policy-makers in confusion. If a rising GDP means that we're better off, why does it so often seem that things are getting worse?
‘The Genuine Progress Index, by contrast, is common-sense accounting. It counts beneficial activities as positive, and damaging activities as negative. So it provides far more sophisticated and accurate guidance for citizens and policy-makers alike - guidance which allows us to evaluate our activities, and change our behaviour accordingly.
GPIAtlantic is a non-profit research and education organization that is creating a Genuine Progress Index for the small Canadian province of Nova Scotia. Over the past 10 years, GPIAtlantic has produced more than 80 carefully-researched reports on topics within the six main categories that make up the Genuine Progress Index - living standards, population health, time use, community vitality, education and environmental quality.
It has produced ground-breaking research on the real costs and benefits of the province's energy consumption, transportation system, solid waste disposal, and air quality. It has analyzed Nova Scotians' working hours, obesity, tobacco use, and gambling habits. Its reports frequently cover subjects that have never been properly studied here before.
And its research has uncovered some surprising facts. It revealed that volunteerism in Nova Scotia adds $1.9 billion to the provincial economy, for instance. It demonstrated that transportation, rather than shelter or health care or food, imposes the heaviest financial burden on Nova Scotian households - and that obesity and poor diet cost the province $250 million annually in health care costs and productivity losses.
Findings like these have changed the way that thoughtful Nova Scotians view their province. Applied globally, they can change the way that human beings view their world’.