Summary of a talk by Ben Beachy on Alternatives to GDP. September 26, 2012
For over a year the Faith Economy Ecology Transformation (FEET) Working Group has been focused on the fact that GDP encourages unsustainable health. Members of FEET have been learning about what viable alternatives exist and how we might begin to get governments to adopt these. On September 26 we heard from Ben Beachy, Research Director, Global Trade Watch at Public Citizen, is also a recent graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he earned a Master in Public Policy, International Trade, Finance and Development. Ben spoke with working group members about his research which has turned into a bill for Congressman Hansen Clark of Detroit.
What Beachy shared with FEET members about his research was an affirmation of working group thinking. Beachy explained that we get what we measure. GDP is an incomplete measure and leaves gaps for environment, social welfare (leisure time and quality of life is not covered); future potential and even current economic welfare because it does not take into account inequality, non-market goods and services, and defensive goals the country may have.
Beachy shared with the group a number of models that are out there including Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness model, the State of the USA (disaggregated model) and the Maryland State Genuine Progress Indicator. The model that Beachy and his colleague favored was one that resembles the Maryland State progress indicator which aims at measuring prosperity, wealth, happiness, and well-being.
One of the most promising things that Beachy shared was that there is a diverse coalition of groups that want to see a move from the GDP model of measurement including social conservatives, market oriented groups, economic progressives and environmentalists. The bill in formulation is called the 21st century GDP Act. Beachy and his collegue have prepared a detailed summary of the act.
To see a video of Ben Beachy’s presentation go to: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_9Fx1L4gv0&list=UUyZOn733BR3lsvwZaUY6fcA&index=1&feature=plcp