Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Bobby Kennedy

I've started an economics course before my masters, and we're studying GDP and GNP at the moment. I finished a wonderful book recently about Bobby Kennedy (about which more soon), but I couldn't help but share this quote, which I think reflects the inadequacy of using mere statistics to measure our quality of life. This was from the first speech of his presidential campaign, and makes for a rather gutsy opening I think.

Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that 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. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children. 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.

1 comment:

Michael said...

Strangely, I was just thinking of something similar today, after reading the debate page in the Irish Times about whether to raise taxes.

Neither side tackled anything other than how to grow. Problems with infinite growth aside, there was a nasty assumption that any growth (in whatever industry or direction) is inherently good. Weird.