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What’s the Economy For?

“There are so many men who can figure costs, and so few who can measure values.” ~Author Unknown

Perhaps we should start an “Ecotext Book Club” to share and discuss books relating to the business Triple Bottom Line of people, planet, and profits. Recently I finished the marvelous 2052: A Global Forecast for the Next Forty Years. Now I am reading What's the Economy For, Anyway?: Why It's Time to Stop Chasing Growth and Start Pursuing Happiness by David K. Batker and John de Graaf.

According to Amazon.com, “John de Graaf is the coauthor of the national bestseller Affluenza: The All-Consuming Epidemic, executive director of Take Back Your Time (see www.timeday.org), and a coordinator of the Seattle Area Happiness Initiative. David Batker is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. He is the director of Earth Economics, a firm that provides ecologically oriented economic analysis.”

The authors remind us of such interesting facts as Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—those all-important measures of current economic fitness—did not exist prior to the Great Depression. They remind us of how many bad things, including pollution, crime, health damage, family breakdown, debt, and even foreclosure and bankruptcy, add to these measures of national output. Furthermore, they remind us of what is not counted in GNP/GDP: nature, sustainability, exercise, social connection, volunteering, housework, and quality.

What’s the Economy For, Anyway? gives us a marvelous example of this lunacy:

Just imagine you’re stuck in a traffic jam, burning gas and choking on exhaust, requiring you to pull off and fill up the tank. The traffic jam has added to the GDP. If you got into a wreck, totaling your car and increasing the cost of your insurance while the wreck caused an even bigger traffic jam for everyone else, the GDP would rise even more. And if you were injured in the wreck and sent to the hospital for weeks of recovery, the GDP would rise still higher. And if you’d had an expensive divorce that morning, and your house burned down that evening, requiring legal fees, insurance claims, and more new purchases, you would have had a completely stellar GDP day! Congratulations!

If this makes you wonder if we’re measuring the wrong things entirely, you’re not alone. Won’t you join me as I read further in this marvelous book? Maybe you’ll consider adding to the GDP by purchasing a copy yourself. Just please don’t get in an accident on the way to the bookstore or cause your house to catch fire while downloading an ebook version…

“If you count all your assets, you always show a profit.” ~Robert Quillen

Kyle Crider is Manager – Environmental Operations at Ecotech Institute and Education Corporation of America. He holds a Master of Public Administration degree with a double-emphasis in Urban Planning & Policy Analysis. He is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design Accredited Professional, Neighborhood Development (LEED AP ND). He is currently in the Interdisciplinary Engineering Ph.D. Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of Ecotech Institute or Education Corporation of America. Email Kyle at kyle.crider@ecotechinstitute.com