New Markers for Human Welfare: Re-Thinking GDP

Stef Sifandos, Contributing Writer
Waking Times 

Although the Gross Domestic Product, GDP, of a nation by definition should never be an indicator of the overall welfare and wellbeing of the individual, in this day and age it unfortunately often is. Originator Simon Kuznets had no intention for GDP to be a measure of the sustainable health of the individuals that occupy a particular nation, but, this economic indicator has evolved into a catch-all gauge of economic and individual wellness.

GDP today now refers to measuring the economy of a nation and has become directly associated with the standard of living within that nation. The causal link we make here is a presumption that the economic activity of a country is an equivocal measurement of the welfare and wellbeing of its citizens.

In this way, GDP provides us with a false understanding of how people feel, their physiological and psychological health, how they live and their overall personal, interpersonal and relational welfare. By exposing this truth we are able to conceptualize a new paradigm of managing the health and wellness of people and the Earth.

  • When a few select individuals spend, consume or earn on the behalf of the vast majority that don’t contribute (in a way that GDP would consider valuable and worthy) to the GDP of that nation we may actually observe an unfair balance.  It is assumed that if material consumption, spending and average wages are high, then the physical and psychological wellbeing of that group is also high.  This correlation is not a realistic representation for all members of that nation, and as an average is not a true indication of an overarching reality.  For the vast majority, reality is often vastly different.

    The sum of the wealth of a nation or area is not wholly indicative of the welfare and wellbeing of the individuals of that nation or area.

    Social inequity (unfortunately) lies at the heart of economic doctrine and is a natural by-product of the social system/s we currently adhere to. We must move beyond measurements of economic values to determine human welfare if we actually want to alleviate human suffering and progress towards social homeostasis. If we cannot address basic markers of physical health and psychological needs, as outlined by Maslows Hierarchy of Needs, how can we possibly develop a society that benefits all people yet is free of mass social and individual pathology?

    We need new measurements of human welfare.

    New markers for the overall integrity and welfare of a nation or geographical area might include the following:

    -Integrity, cleanliness and availability of drinking water

    -Integrity and advancement of sewage and sanitation systems

    -Integrity of agricultural land available for food production

    -Level of poverty that plagues a nation

    -Level of homelessness

    -Collective debt of the entire nation

    -Level or amount of individuals actively and voluntarily engrossed in educative practices

    -The nation’s engagements in war

    -Degree, availability and accessibility of medical treatment for the general public

    -Level of general collaboration amongst groups and individuals

    -Local level of productivity and output efficiency 

    -Suicide rates

    -Level of relative technological innovations

    -Amount of natural landscape that has a world heritage listing or is in a pristine, protected condition

    -Level of social pathology

    -Legal matters processed

    (Please note that these markers may vary in depth and detail and are merely a guide, and that some of the markers would be more applicable to certain areas than others.  A constant evolution of these ‘health markers’ would be applied according to the location and circumstances, and be dependent on time, place, era, cultural evolution, needs of the Earth, and the needs of people.  Surely there are more ways to measure individual wellbeing than just these, however, this is a start).

    This process is pressing, complex, highly correlated and integrative, yet it is also very achievable. A strong ideological shift in the way we conduct our lives and a tremendous shift in our value systems towards collaboration and reliance upon each other is required in order to break the constraints of our current paradigm.

    The purpose of this article is to invite the reader to think beyond the norms that set our social standards and dictate what welfare means today. GDP is not a true marker or indicator of human health. There is currently far too much inequity in society while a small minority of people hold extreme amounts of monetary wealth, thus greatly influencing their standing in relation to GDP.

    GDP is not a just benchmark for the physical and psychological health of nations. Unfortunately the intrinsic restraints embedded within our monetary system and its entrenched economic doctrine and dogma prevent us from alleviating social disharmony. We must alter our strategies towards regaining balance within society and identifying what causes disharmony to human welfare. It is imperative we move towards a model of systemic health that emphasizes and encompasses the prioritization of environmental integrity, balance, human equity, justice and overall social homeostasis.

    About the Author

    Author and scholar, Stefanos S Sifandos, works on a daily basis assisting individuals in bettering their lives and reaching a higher inner potential.

    His inquisitive and opened mind as well as his respect for and close relationship with nature inspire him to help others relate to the world in new more holistic ways.  His first book, The Labyrinth of Life, provides an insightful approach to an ever-changing world. Stefanos believes strongly in the connectedness of life and the need to openly question and deeply reflect upon our actions, thoughts, behaviours and self created systems in order to have the most positive impact on our ailing world.

    This article is offered under Creative Commons license. It’s okay to republish it anywhere as long as attribution bio is included and all links remain intact.

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