Measure National Progress Not by GDP but Happiness

New Ways of Measuring Progress

Instead of valuing a steady increase in consumption and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) that harm the environment, pioneering Bhutan developed a Gross National Happiness Index in the 1970s identifying 124 variables that influence fulfillment. (Bhutan also created a national Organic Policy for agriculture, with no GO, no pesticides, no Monsanto.) Others developed a Quality of Life index and in the US an NGO called The Happiness Initiative provides a happiness metric. The “we” spirit is typical of Scandinavian countries like Denmark, contrasted to the “I” focus leading to the decline of the US, explains Thom Hartman in Threshold. Adam Werbach, a young former head of the Sierra Club, advocates a sharing economy in his Strategy for Sustainability A Business Manifesto (2009). For example, he suggests instead of buying a car, rent a Zipcar car sharing program and rent out rooms to travelers through Airing.

Riana Eisner, author of The Real Wealth of Nations: Creating a Caring Economics, argues that the true wealth of nations stems from the contributions of nature and people.[i] She points out that companies that make the Working Mother Magazine best list are rewarded with healthy profits. In my telephone interview with Eisner, she of course pointed to Scandinavia as a model of a caring economy, with universal health care and long parental leave and good childcare. She said critics call them “nanny states” although men and women benefit equally. Eisner advocates moving from a hierarchical system of domination to a partnership model that values the contributions of women and nature. Neither socialism nor capitalism has the answer so a new caring economic system is needed; she hopes young people will contribute to the change. She advocates that schools teach children how to care for themselves, others and nature.


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