Posted by Tim Stobbs on August 4, 2009
On a big picture basis I have to admit I am confused by recessions. It seems to me that all this obsession with growing our/their economies really isn’t getting much done. We grow for a while, then some one some where does something breath-takingly dumb. Then the growth goes negative and we enter a recession. People lose their jobs, everyone gets worried and generally things go to hell for a while. Then depending on the damage done it takes people a decade to regain the wealth they had prior to the recession.
Perhaps we should cut short this entire process of bubbles rising and falling and just accept lower growth. We could all give up buying crap we don’t really want or need, live in smaller houses and cut back the work week to 32 hours. Then we could all get more focused on building a better civilization rather than just an economy.
I suppose that is why I like the idea of the GPI (Genuie Progress Indicator), which is sort of like the GDP, but it also takes items off that impact of reduction of water quality, the cost of family breakdowns and the cost crime. Unlike the GDP where you get robbed and it is a good thing (they have to replace your stuff) or if you dump chemicals and kill fish in a river it is a good thing (the costs of the clean up). The GPI has some feedback to realize no one wants to be robbed or kill off entire rivers. According to the GPI metric the US as a civilization peaked in approximately 1973 and has been going downhill since then. No wonder if things feel like they are getting worse, they are.
I was a little suprised to find that this has been looked at in Canada. Back in 2003 NRTEE wrote a report on developing a new set of indicators. Yet like many other good ideas I don’t believe this one went anywhere as I have yet to find a nice summary number like the GPI from the Government of Canada.
Yet despite the the sense of the idea, it won’t go anywhere for now. We are a little focused on getting people back to work to worry about how to measure things despite the fact in the long run it might be more useful. So what do you think of using the GPI?