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Down among the women: limits of ‘growth’

Written By: - Date published: 11:22 am, January 14th, 2014 - 97 comments
Categories: capitalism, democratic participation, Economy, employment, equality, patriarchy, political alternatives, sustainability, unemployment, vision - Tags:

The dominant measure used by economists and governments to measure economic well-being, GDP, fails to account for the huge amount of unpaid work on which societies depend.  It is a model based on giving a high value to competition, ignoring human diversity, and fails to account for the ways people contribute to the economy and social well-being through cooperative activities.

capitaism depends on domestic labour

Internationally women do the majority of the informal, unpaid, or underpaid caring work that are essential to keep society functioning. A gender-blind approach to the economy, society and politics will most often result in failing to understand the significant role of cooperative and caring activities in a sustainable society. Focusing on all the ways men, women, children and others contribute positively to society can lead to an alternative way of living: one based on positive life-sustaining values; a way that is not blind to differences between people.

This was highlighted in an excellent article that joe90 linked to under the post, ‘Obama’s TPPA bid to over-ride democracy’:  Dr. Vandana Shiva: The Connection Between Global Economic Policy and Violence Against Women.

Dr Shiva begins by stating that, “violence against women is as old as patriarchy”, indicating that it predates capitalism.  However, in her article Dr Shiva focuses on the way violence against women in India has intensified since the rise of neoliberalism there:

And while we intensify our struggle for justice for women, we need to also ask why rape cases have increased 240 percent since 1990s when the new economic policies were introduced. We need to examine the roots of the growing violence against women.

She goes on to argue that the “new economic model” is one based on various kinds of violence.  This begins with the alienating, dysfunctional, and life-destroying violence brought about by the GDP model; a model which ignores vast areas of women’s activities:

The transformation of value into disvalue, labour into non-labour, knowledge into non-knowledge, is achieved by the most powerful number that rules our lives, the patriarchal construct of GDP, Gross Domestic Product, which commentators have started to call the Gross Domestic Problem.

Shiva goes on to explain the problems of the GDP model:

… all women who produce for their families, children, community and society are treated as “non-productive” and “economically” inactive. When economies are confined to the market place, economic self-sufficiency is perceived as economic deficiency.

This ignores two areas vital to the survival of the eco-system and of humans within it:

They are the areas of nature’s economy and sustenance economy. In nature’s economy and sustenance economy, economic value is a measure of how the earth’s life and human life are protected. Its currency is life giving processes, not cash or the market price.

Others working in the area of feminist economics in other countries have come to similar conclusions about the destructive impact of the GDP measure. Some have put forward an alternative model based on human capabailities, which measures what people can do:

This approach emphasizes processes as well as outcomes, and draws attention to cultural, social and material dynamics of well-being.

Elsa Duhagon argues that the 2008 economic crisis shows that an understanding of the impact of gender inequalities on society and the economy is crucial:

To the current economic conception, growth equals economic development and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the most used indicator to measure the “wealth” generated. However, feminist economics has shown that over 50% of all human work is unpaid and therefore is not recorded in GDP.

If this invisible work were considered we would see that nearly 2/3 of wealth is created by women.

Consequently, a new economic model is required that includes ” activities that are essential for the existence of the family and community“:

These include maintaining a household, voluntary work, child rearing, caring for the elderly and a large part of food production and crop maintenance. Since these activities are carried out in the context of the family, without any exchange of money, they are considered “noneconomic activities” …

Duhagon goes on to argue that gender blind responses to the 2008 GFC were not helpful.  An ILO report shows that the crisis caused a major and long term drop in wages. Most of the mainstream attention given to raising employment levels fails to account for the way women have been impacted by the crisis:  women

accept lower wages, work all day, they do more unpaid hours or they enter the informal economy. […] government spending cuts will always tend to cause an increase in unpaid work.

I would also add that in response to an economic/employment crisis, women do more part time, precarious and udnerpaid work. And before any recovery in the measured economy or employment levels gain traction, there is a lot of social destruction that damages lives.

Any alternative model that aims for a sustainable, inclusive, cooperative and life-affirming society needs to attend to gender and other differences between people, as well as focusing on our collective aims and processes.

 

 

 

97 comments on “Down among the women: limits of ‘growth’ ”

  1. great post, karol. i guess the only thing i have issue with is the fact that we must resort only to economic arguments (in this case the value of unpaid work) to give value to policy issues that come under the area of diversity. sometimes the arguments have nothing to do with economics, but with basic human rights. we need to be able to talk about those rights outside of the economic sphere as well as within it.

    still, unpaid work & the lack of recognition of the value of what is traditionally “women’s” work is something that really does need to change. and you’ve laid out the case really well.

    • karol 1.1

      Agreed, stargazer, and something I have in mind for a future post – not just in relation to gender. The central focus on economics within mainstream politics, is part of a long patriarchal tradition. To me, other things come first – like the wider culture and values underpinning economic and other social arrangements.

      There is too much in there to attend to in just one post.

      And, thank you.

  2. TightyRighty 2

    So let me get this straight, we are supposed to be gender blind in all things except when women who voluntarily don’t work want more money?

    • karol 2.1

      TR, where to start? Have you read the post fully? Comprehension problem?

      Where did I say we need to be gender blind to most things?

      Where did I say women who do unpaid work voluntarily choose to do that and not to work in the paid part of the economy?

      You seem to have missed the whole point about the way paid and unaid work are valued, and have imposed some of the same old economic values onto your response.

      • TightyRighty 2.1.1

        You seem to think that it’s everyone else’s problem when individuals make personal choices. With the exception of care givers for sick family members, it strikes me as awfully naive that you think people can’t factor in the financial impact of their choices. this is a common refrain from you, society needs to pick up the tab for choices made by the individual, often made with only their immediate self interest in mind.

        You haven’t explicitly said in this post that we need to be gender blind in most things, but i remember your ire, if i can’t be arsed finding it, about some aresholes suggestion that women should be paid less as they take more sick day’s and eventually get pregnant and bugger off. hardly a gender blind provocation, or reaction.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1.1

          Yes, I agree.

          When right-wingers make the choice to vote in incompetent governments who destroy the value of work and wages, and put thousands on the dole queue, they should take responsibility for their cretinous behaviour.

          What’s your excuse?

        • karol 2.1.1.2

          What a confusion of ideas, TR.

          It’s your spin that it’s about individual choices. You don’t want to contemplate a different kind of society. Individual’s are frequently given limtied choices within the currrent system. Women are most often left with care of children and others – either they leave those kids and others to suffer, or they care for their needs. Increasingly women (and some others) are pressured to both do such caring, and take up pid work – often to the detiriment of their caring activities…. some choice!

          But I guess you are following the Thatcher line that society does not exist – just individuals. To such society-deniers, everyone can freely make unrestricted choices.

          The point about women being paid less because they get pregnant etc….. has nothing to do with being gender blind – just the opposite. Of course some women get pregnant, and it requires particular attention. As does the need for parents to take care of their children – hence the whole paid parental leave solution, which laregly impacts on women.

          • TightyRighty 2.1.1.2.1

            the sum of individuals choices creates societal choice Karol. Only an idiot, hoplessly outclassed on the intellectual front would start throwing labels around like “-denier” when an alternative, more proven system that conflicts with the OP’s desired world view is presented. good work.

            so because a woman chooses to have kids, the woman can’t work? do kids need to be looked after by a parent to become functioning members of society later in life?

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1.2.1.1

              Let’s destroy this neo-liberal nightmare, where the only value attached to people is as workers. Let’s break its adherents and drive them from the Treasury (benches and department). These filth shouldn’t be allowed to breed, let alone govern.

              • TightyRighty

                social engineering through forced contraception. how bigoted and authoritarian of you. Nice to see this kind of thing is allowed to be spouted by those who walk the approved line. those on the right generally ask individuals to think of their own circumstance before bringing offspring into the world, as it’s those circumstances that the child will be raised in. good ole rabid lefty OAK just wants to enforce his views on the world any old way.

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  Oh, did you not recognise the use of mainstream right-wing rhetoric as sarcasm? Sorry, I must make allowances.

                  The irony is that since (unlike unemployment) right-wing beliefs are genetic – being mostly related to low IQ – the policy would actually work.

                  • TightyRighty

                    right wing beliefs are genetic? you really are living in a fantasy world aren’t you?

                    So many offspring of the middle class do a little “i’m a lefty” rebellion thing against mum and dad. Then they realise how stupid, self-righteous and sanctimonious the whole thing is and quite rightly start thinking properly and vote national. only the moron’s and inter-generational poor vote left after about 28.

                    So your being sarcastic when you say that i’m filth and shouldn’t be allowed to breed let alone govern? so really, I’m valuable, should breed (when I choose to and can afford it of course) and know how to govern? Thanks, but i don’t need the approval of some anonymous commentator to afraid to stand beside their original anonymous comment.

                  • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                    Yes, they’re genetic inasmuch as stupidity is. Hodson and Busseri 2011.

                    • TightyRighty

                      and yet national voters are more succesful than labour voters. they donate more to charity, raise more too. They employ more people and export more goods. The biggest business name i can think of supporting labour is Steven Tindall. Hardly the knowledge led, locally sourcing, high wage paying paragon of business. do correct me if i’m wrong and there is a bigger name.

                    • karol

                      TR @ 4.18pm – continuing to ignore the contribution to society of unpaid and underpaid work – and making a circular argument. TR starts with an assumption about what counts as “success”, then proceeds to show that National voters are better at achieving such “success”.

                    • Paul

                      TR, wealthy people vote National out of self interest.
                      It’s pretty simple. They’re not successful because they vote National.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      “…proceeds to assert that…” FIFY

            • Huginn 2.1.1.2.1.2

              the sum of individuals choices creates societal choice

              Societal, or collective choice =/= the sum of the individuals’ choices within that collective.

              Utility, or preference functions don’t aggregate to anything useful; no-one in economics has shown that that they do, and they’ve tried, they’ve really, really tried.
              Only an idiot, hoplessly outclassed on the intellectual front, eg. someone who hasn’t understood what The Prisoners Dilemma is about, would say such a stupid thing.

        • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1.3

          Take just one element of “the confusion of ideas”, that “society needs to pick up the tab for choices made by the individual, often made with only their immediate self interest in mind.”

          Yes, society does. When you vote for a personal income tax cut and a raise in GST, for example, vote are taking money from the poorest and putting it into your own pocket. Society picks up the tab for your greed and selfishness.

          I further note that your rhetoric implies that you believe we can have full employment, but the policies you promote require there to be a level of unemployment. Society picks up the tab for your policies, as well as the tab for the depression that your political lies and hypocrisy induce in others.

          What’s your excuse?

          • TightyRighty 2.1.1.3.1

            that i pay far more than my “fair” share of tax still, let alone under the old system. GST impacts higher earners more btw. just because poor people spend a higher proportion of their income, they don’t contribute a larger amount of gst. fwiw.

            my rhetoric implies nothing about employments, it’s purely the financial outcome of choices made. the economy is booming thanks to the votes of myself and people like me. far sighted, optimistic individuals, who see the best way forward for the country is a strong export led economy. I need no excuse for being right about who the best party to govern is. What’s your excuse for not opening up your eyes to reality? in fact, how about a fucking thank you OAK for helping to make this country the best in the world right now?

            • McFlock 2.1.1.3.1.1

              Anyone who thinks capitalism is a merit-based system need look no farther than your comment.

            • One Anonymous Knucklehead 2.1.1.3.1.2

              If “personal choices” cause unemployment, it implies that their is enough paid employment for everyone, which is only prevented by choice. Not the only chasm between your opinion and reality.

              The economy isn’t booming. Unemployment is double what it was seven years ago. Wages have stagnated, thanks again to your useless incompetent government, and the rate of infectious disease admissions continues to climb, while the causes are known and all you can do is deny them.

              Now, if you’ve finished your self-serving little masturbation session I need to throw up.

              • TightyRighty

                what a bitter little person you are. you failed at the system? must be the systems fault then. Better give me a vasectomy to prevent the system propagating.

                Don’t forget to brush after. It’ll smell like mint bullshit as opposed to your normal garden variety.

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  Ah, but you you have any substantive rebuttal to the facts I just drew your attention to? No? Didn’t think so.

                  Personal responsibility means it’s always someone else’s fault, so far as you’re concerned, but when someone calls you on it, or runs some of your hate-speech back at you, you get all offended and bleaty.

                  Well guess what, Jobslayer, if we do things your way, you’ll win. We’re not doing things your way.

                  • TightyRighty

                    Personal responsibility means it’s someone else’s fault? Where did i say that? Hate speech? i’m not the one calling for enforced contraception.

                    I’ll give you unemployment is almost twice 2007, the last year of our consumer debt driven boom. Unemployment is a lagging indicator. it’ll be interesting to see what the level is come march. Plenty of jobs in chch and auckland too. Though a few more years in school learning math and english will be of benefit to a lot of applicants.

                    If we do things my way, you will all win. winning for everyone. if we do things your way, we’ll all be equally as poor. that’s your definition of winning though isn’t it? many aspirational. much quality of life. so equal.

                    • karol

                      It”s not just about the total number of jobs – it’s also about how much they pay – since the GFC there was a general drop in wages internationally, and recovery wasn’t expected any time soon.

                      It’s also about how secure the jobs are, and whether they are part or full time.

                      Further, it’s about where the jobs are. When the response to a financial crisis results in cuts to public spending, more of the necessary work in society is unpaid (with women doing a lot of that work) and/or underpaid.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      You said that when you implied that unemployment is a consequence of poor choices, when in fact it is a consequence of the economic policies you voted for (no party having promoted or achieved full employment this is self-evident).

                      I think I’ll go with the Left thanks, on the grounds that they consistently achieve higher per-capita GDP and the lowest unemployment rate NZ has ever seen while simultaneously managing to treat citizens as though they have human rights.

                      No, Tighty, sarcasm is sarcasm. Feeding right wing lines back at right wingers is just my way of giving you a taste of your own medicine. Perhaps you’ve never remarked, for example, that beneficiaries shouldn’t have children, but I doubt it.

                    • TightyRighty

                      If you can’t afford children you shouldn’t have them. Doesn’t only apply to beneficiaries. The left get to enjoy the hard work and long lasting legacy right wing governments leave for them. The right always have to come in and clean up the infants mess after a labour left / government. but pick away. we’ve got enough support thanks.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      Yeah, revisionist history might give you a warm feeling, but everyone else can see the stain spreading.

                      The National Party runs up debt. The Labour Party pays it off while delivering higher GDP and employment rates, meaning even the wealthy do better under Labour-led governments. Facts, Tighty. That stain must be getting uncomfortable now it’s cooling down.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      If we do things my way, you will all win. winning for everyone.

                      We’ve been doing things your way for thirty years and what we’ve seen is:
                      1.) Increased poverty
                      2.) A decrease in braod manufacturing
                      3.) An increase in pollution especially in rivers
                      4.) A few people making out like the bandits that they are

                      No, if we do things your way only the sociopaths win.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Like the fucking SS handing out loaves of bread to starving Jews in the Ghetto, encouraging them to board the train.

                    • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                      “If you can’t afford children you shouldn’t have them”.

                      This is the hate speech I’m talking about, Tighty. People’s financial circumstances can change rapidly and there is effectively no guarantee of income. What you are implying – that being able to afford children today means you will always be able to afford them tomorrow – means there is no such thing as risk; an odd position for a capitalist to take.

                      So, since the dogma is false, what purpose does it serve, Tighty, other than to imply that poor people shouldn’t breed? Hate speech. Own it, and lift your game.

                    • McFlock

                      OK, TR, Let’s take your example of beneficiaries who callously procreate, knowing that they will never in the next 18 years have the financial ability to feed and clothe that child adequately.

                      What is your solution to that “problem”?
                      Would you have the state ensure they have enough money to raise the child?
                      Would you leave the child to become a criminal simply to survive?
                      Would you force an abortion?
                      Would you remove the child from the family at birth?

                      If none of the above, what is your solution?

                    • Huginn

                      If you can’t afford children you shouldn’t have them.

                      That’s a terrible idea! No-one would have any children until they were well into the most productive years of their careers. And by then lots of them are too old and tired to manage career and children, so they drop out – or cut back, precisely at the time they could be working longer hours for more money. You’re stupid idea has high worth income earners dropping out and paying less tax.

                      Here’s a better idea. Let’s encourage teenagers to have little babies and support them with good quality childcare and a little bit of money while they dawdle through tertiary education, apprenticeships or whatever. They don’t make much money at that age so they won’t be missed from the tax base.

                      They’ll be over the kids by the time they’re in their 40’s and making money.

                      Anyone who can actually afford to have kids should be at work generating a tax liability

                    • Lloyd

                      Since “rich” people have a far greater ecological footprint on the world and require much greater amounts of resources than “poor” people, it is logical to let the poor breed and the rich to not have children. Save the planet.

                • aerobubble

                  …must be the systems fault…

                  Like government were ever perfect, or perfectly imperfect.

                  Black and white, neo-liberal nonsense.

                  Just so we don’t talk about current goovernment policies, the pro-statists make out that they hate government, yet use pro-government arguments of perfection.

                  Oh, and personal-responsibility, no libertarian would use the term for obvious reasons, that they would hate the government using such a measure. Oops.

                  Nobody that has ever voted ACT is a rational libertarian.

                  • Paul

                    Libertarians. Rational?

                    • aerobubble

                      social libertarians? we all love liberty. That’s the problem, the right steal off with the libertarian values and then some people think libertarianism is bad.

                      The constitution of the US guarantees libertarian amongst other values. There is no seclusion or separation, except those who fall for the framing.

                      I mean a socialist is a communist who accepts libertarianism surely?

        • Ennui 2.1.1.4

          You seem to think that it’s everyone else’s problem when individuals make personal choices. I have some sympathy for this viewpoint, but it needs to be tempered by the fact that decisions are not made in a vacuum, and there are lots of factors and influences involved.

          With regard to society picking up the tab, society as a collection of the individuals has its own needs. Needs have costs, costs have bills. Perhaps you might regard “individual choices” as being made within a collective framework (i.e for the greater good society might have decided to fund child, not the parent who chose to have a child, or to stay home and nurture the child).

        • Tracey 2.1.1.5

          you mean like these employees chose for their company to nreeglect safety resulting in their deaths costing a mere 150k to the latest company…

          “Forestry companies must abide by the Approved Code of Practice for Forest Harvesting, Ms de Rooy said.

          “If Complete Logging Ltd had applied it, the chances are Mr Epapara would be here today. Instead, a family and a community grieves over a preventable death.”

          The forestry industry had an appalling year in 2013 with 10 men workplace deaths, she said.”

    • QoT 2.2

      No, you’re supposed to acknowledge a basic reality: you and our economy would be pretty fucked if women stopped having children and raising them for free.

    • Chooky 2.3

      @TR women work all the time!…….people like you dont regard it as work though!

      ….who looks after babies and children, does the housework, does the cooking, gets the groceries and keeps the garden, looks after the elderly and the disabled and sick?….keeps the wheels of the household on track?…..this is WORK!

      ….around the world women should be paid for this work….and also men who choose to do it….because otherwise we have no society

      …..It is perhaps the most important work!….and many women and men choose to do in preference to high paying jobs because it is ESSENTIAL work!

      It is time it is recognised by society, factored in by male economists and democratic governments!

  3. captain hook 3

    Karol these people are just morons and I would say dont waste your time on them but the rest of the world needs to hear the right arguments so keep up the good work.

  4. Ennui 4

    K, I have listened to a lot of Vandana Shiva on mp3, and read plenty of her works. Fantastic reference, the woman is a true colossus.

    • Molly 4.1

      Yes, Vandana Shiva is well worth looking up and researching. I first came across her while watching The Corporation many years ago, when she was interviewed about the rush to patent living organisms, and indigenous plant uses.

      Since that time, have always made the effort to read her interviews and watch her on documentaries.

      Will be taking my daughter along to see her if she ever comes to NZ.

  5. I expect the complaint that economists only measure economic activity isn’t likely to get a lot of traction.

    • karol 5.1

      The compaint is that mainstream economists ignore some of the most significant areas of economic activity, and don’t measure that.

      • Ennui 5.1.1

        I think that the complaint with economists is that they can only measure transactions between individuals and entities that are transacted in coins……if it does not have a set margin they are all at sea. Social transactions make economists feel woozy (maybe they suspect that social transactions are what coin transactions are designed to facilitate…dangerous concept).

      • Psycho Milt 5.1.2

        They ignore a lot of significant ‘productive’ activity, yes – but the accusation that they ignore a lot of ‘economic’ activity is in want of substantiation. In a system that uses money, the ‘economy’ is about what the money is doing, not about who’s doing some work. Criticising economists for only looking at money-based activity is like criticising veterinarians for only looking at animal health.

        • McFlock 5.1.2.1

          Nice line, but it’s more like criticising a vet for never considering what an animal is eating, where it is housed, and other aspects of its environment when determining the animal’s condition.

          Economists just stick a thermometer up the arse of the country and assume that that’s all the information they need to know.

        • karol 5.1.2.2

          Economic activity is about management of, or organisation of, resources, including human resources – it’s only the banksters in a capitalist/market economy who want it to be about what the money is doing.

          • Psycho Milt 5.1.2.2.1

            Well, them and anyone who understands what the term ‘economics’ means. If you want a social science of who’s doing what that’s of some tangible or intangible use to society regardless of money or goods changing hands, feel free to create it – lasting fame awaits you if you’re successful. But it’s no use blaming economists for not doing this new social science that hasn’t been invented yet instead of economics.

            • McFlock 5.1.2.2.1.1

              meh: wikipedia:

              Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services.

              Seems to be pretty much what they told me at school, too.

              • karol

                Yep. And having studied and taught sociology I agree with McFlock. It’s the neoliberals who have narrowed the concept of economics to be something to do with finances and business, and cut out the part of it to do with social sciences – study of people’s uses of resources.

                Interesting that the wikip link shows “economics” has having begun with Marxist politcal economy.

                • McFlock

                  the thing is that if you restrict economics to the movement of money, what’s the point of it? An entire social study dedicated to the movement of bits of paper and their imaginary electronic substitutes? Seriously, who in their right mind would care?

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Orthodox economics is actually more narrow than that and does not deal with the impact of money, debt or banks on the economy. Price and market behaviour is its specialty.

                    The disciplines of finance, banking and monetary theory does, in some very slight and glancing ways.

                    The whole thing almost seems designed to make the accumulation and wielding of real physical wealth and power invisible to the theory.

                    • karol

                      When I studied sociology, economics was always included as part of sociology, as it focused on human behaviour in society – Marx, one of the founding fathers of sociology – along with Weber and Durkheim.

                      Anyway, wikipedia takes a similar line: social sciences:

            • KJT 5.1.2.2.1.2

              That is exactly what economics was when it started. A study of social interactions around resource use and allocation.

              Social science.

              Only in recent times it has been narrowed to mathematical chicken entrial gazing.

              • Colonial Viper

                Well, neoclassical economics can be seen as the mathematisation of classical economics, which helped to progress economics as a “real” science (even though in reality it remains the “dismal” science).

    • stargazer 5.2

      missed the point? caring work is economic activity. a lot of volunteer work is economic activity. i sit voluntarily on the governing boards of a couple of NGO’s, don’t get paid but running those organisations has led to an increase in employment, in tangible work outputs & in societal outcomes. all of that is economic activity but my work (& the work of others on that board) is not picked up as economic activity.

      perhaps you could focus your attention on the fact that the definition of “economic activity” by some economists is somewhat deficient.

    • Macro 5.3

      “Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product … if we should judge America by that – 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 those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. 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 tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

      Sen Robert F Kennedy March 1968
      http://www.socialprogressimperative.org/blog/posts/senator-robert-f-kennedy-on-the-shortcomings-of-gross-national-product
      80 years ago, economist Simon Kuznets introduced GDP to the world, alongside a clear warning against using it to define the wellbeing of people.

      • Psycho Milt 5.3.1

        Exactly. GDP isn’t a measure of what useful work’s being done or of a population’s well-being. If politicians are treating it as such, the problem is with them, not with GDP as a measure of economic activity or with the economists who measure it.

        • Draco T Bastard 5.3.1.1

          Except that you obviously have NFI WTF an economy is – just like the economists and politicians.

  6. tricledrown 6

    Tighty almiighty alwhitey.
    You have got the benefits of a free education you only paid 28% of your tertiary education.
    That hand up allowed you to get to where you are now ,you can Now help others do the same.
    Being a selfish prick doesn”t make you part of the community but a part of society that wants to deny oportunity to others .
    Civilization is about working together as a community.
    Your formula is about stopping communuties working together.
    Its reverting us back to the laws of the jungle where only the strongest and fitest are aloud to participate.
    You and John Key would be on the bottom of the pile Now if it weren’t for socialism.

    • TightyRighty 6.1

      Everyone is entitled to a free education system, everyone got the same helping hand. Am i advocating removing a free primary and secondary education system? absolutely not, i think it’s invaluable. i advocate choice within it though. it’s proven competition leads to better performance by suppliers. what you are pissed about is that i did better out of it than you. So you live in a low rent area, hanging out with low rent people, doing low rent things. You look at those more successful at life than you and hate them for that. Sad really.

      Me and Jk would be on the bottom of the pile if it weren’t for socialism? when has NZ ever been socialist?

      • McFlock 6.1.1

        Did you have to cement over the period c1932-1975? Or were you merely significantly overcharged for your free education?

        it’s proven competition leads to better performance by suppliers.
        McDonalds/KFC. Providing what the customer wants, against the public interest.

        • TightyRighty 6.1.1.1

          Pacific Edge Biotech, Xero, Diligent?

          Much better performers than Mcd’s/restaurant brands and providing jobs, export income and forging ahead for NZ’s knowledge economy. Strange how that only flourished under national after all labours emphasis on it

          1932-1975? socialist? hahahahaha. egalitarian, not socialist.

          • Paul 6.1.1.1.1

            You live in a fantasy world.

            • TightyRighty 6.1.1.1.1.1

              yes, your amazing argument and stunning insight have convinced me of that. I live in the real world. the one with income contraints, work to be done, budgets to be kept, choices to be made. where i can make money or lose my job. without moaning once about it. in fact loving it. Helps when you’ve got the right attitude and don’t blame everyone else for your misfortune of being a loser.

              • karol

                In your “real world” who looks after the children, the sick, the injured, the storm damaged? Who cooks th dinners, does the shopping an dhouse maintenance?

                And if you have a low paid job, work hard, but still have few savings, what happens when they lose that job because the government cuts services as the result of a global financial crisis, or when athe business goes bust due to bad or corrupt actions by the managers?

                • One Anonymous Knucklehead

                  When that happens, Tighty will smugly remark that you shouldn’t have made bad choices.

                • Paul

                  Yes it would be interesting to see what zealous Randists do if misfortune strikes.
                  Do they lecture themselves or suddenly realise that they need assistance?

                  • Huginn

                    A heavy smoker who refused to believe that smoking was a cause of lung cancer, Ayn Rand liked to sneer at the anti-smoking lobby. Predictably enough, she underwent surgery for lung cancer in 1974 and died of heart failure in 1982.

                    Ayn Rand fiercely opposed all types of Social Security, including Medicare, but when she and her husband needed Medicare somehow she decided that this did not apply to them. Apparently she signed power of attorney and let someone else sign her up under the name of Ann O’Connor

                    Cribbed from:
                    http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Ayn_Rand

                • Sabine Ford

                  in TR’s world, these would all die as they are only resource users. they generate no wealth.

                  cooking dinner? how quaint. And only lazy people loose jobs.

          • McFlock 6.1.1.1.2

            Your argument that the Oxford English Dictionary has got it wrong is a hint that you might be fucked in the head.

    • Lloyd 6.2

      Tricledown you are so right. Everyone should be asking John Key where he would be if it wasn’t for socialism and social welfare.
      I would suggest he would not have become a millionaire if he had had his childhood in the USA.

  7. Bill 7

    Okay. I’m confused. GDP measures ‘an aspect’ of the market economy. Correct me I’ve picked up the general gist of the post wrong – but what does taking wider factors into account or changing the measurement do in terms of what the market does? I can’t see it making one iota of difference seeing as how the market’s principle economic purpose is profit.

    Alternatively, if the suggestion is that a new economy is necessary, then why bother spending time on the deficiencies of gdp…which is and can only be an economic measurement within the context of a market economy?

    And so to this –

    Any alternative model that aims for a sustainable, inclusive, cooperative and life-affirming society needs to attend to gender and other differences between people, as well as focusing on our collective aims and processes.

    Can that be anything other than a democratic economy…ie, a wholly participatory economy operating in tandem with a necessarily democratic or participatory polity?

    ‘Sustainable’ and ‘life affirming’ might appear to demand attention to resource depletion and AGW. ‘Inclusive’, ‘cooperative’ and ‘collective aims and processes’ would have to attend to gender and all other oppressions (supply whatever list of ‘isms’) …otherwise it would be something other (less then) than ‘inclusive’, ‘cooperative’ and/or focused on ‘collective aims and processes’…ie, something other than democratic.

    • karol 7.1

      Good point, Bill. I think just changing the economy, without attending to changing the underlying system, would result in further problems.

      But I don’t equate economy with “market economy” (some of the sources I linked to may well ultimately imply/require that). The sources do show how flawed our current approach to the economy, is – and the measurement of it is central to the system. They ultimately show that decisions about management of the economy, are based on some underlying (usually not explicit) values, assumptions, concepts etc. And mainstream economics tends to do the opposite – assume that economic arrangements are the bedrock on which society/community is built. It seeems to start with the economic management, and expect that will magically make for a better society.

      And for me the “economy” is to do with management or organisation of resources. Any society or community will do that one way or another.

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        Of course in truth, the current approach to the economy is not flawed; it is in fact working exceptionally well for the elite patriarchal 0.1% who make the key decisions.

        And for me the “economy” is to do with management or organisation of resources. Any society or community will do that one way or another.

        Yes, this is indeed a proper, more holistic definition of “the economy.” Unfortunately what we usually view as the “economy” nowadays, especially through the lens of the corporate MSM, is merely the metastatic financialised economy. It is that financialisation of people, of resources, and in fact of the entire ecosystem, which is leading our civilisation to disaster.

        However, corporations do not make strategic business decisions based on GDP or even on forecasts of GDP. Partly because they have far more detailed metrics, but also because they know that GDP is actually irrelevant (beyond it’s role in providing convenient political cover and distraction for desired policies of austerity, bailouts etc.)

        So I’ll reflect Bill’s sentiments using different words – will changing the use of the GDP measure (if such a thing can be accomplished after two decades of criticism) convince the power elite to relinquish their exalted position or to share their privilege with the wider population? Of course, it will not.

        What the Left needs to do is provide people with a vision of an alternative democratic socialist economy. One which does not pray head bowed at the altar of parasitic insanity and of Thanatos, and one which stops our world short of the environmental and resource cliff face we are accelerating towards.

      • Bill 7.1.2

        The sources do show how flawed our current approach to the economy, is – and the measurement of it is central to the system

        ‘Everybody’ knows that gdp is a narrowly focused measurement. But it’s only inadequate if we want to measure…how to say?…wider economic phenomena. And then, unless we are suggesting that the measurement predated the realisation of the economy and somehow determined (how?) its shape and character, then no model of measurement will make any difference whatsoever to the reality of what the economy is and how it operates…whether *those* oranges are measured by total number of individual pieces of fruit, weight, volume or anything else or any combination of anything/everything else, barring magic, the measurement can’t impact on the reality of whatever is there.

        The best I can see for adopting more comprehensive or wider ranging measurements is that it/they might lift the veil on some currently ‘hidden’ aspects and dynamics of our economy…offer a better description… and lead to demands for its total reconfiguration ie, a different way to manage and determine production and distribution. If that’s the hope, and if we then want an economy that doesn’t lock in various oppressions (I’ll assume we do) , then we have to bang our heads together and come up with democratic scenarios, no?

        And for me the “economy” is to do with management or organisation of resources. Any society or community will do that one way or another

        yup

        • karol 7.1.2.1

          I’m not sure that everybody knows of the narrowness of GDP measurements. Many people just hear it as a measure, and accept that it measures how well our economy is doing. Some have used it as a measure in the discussion above, without seemingly being aware of it’s limtiations.

          Bill: The best I can see for adopting more comprehensive or wider ranging measurements is that it/they might lift the veil on some currently ‘hidden’ aspects and dynamics of our economy…offer a better description… and lead to demands for its total reconfiguration,

          And I do think this is what the quoted feminist economic arguments about unpaid work do. Many people don’t think of their everyday, non-paid activities as making a positive contribution to the wider society – thus all the beneficiary bashing, and current pressure of single parents to be doing paid work.

          While I also think it’s really important to focus on alternatives, it’s also necesssary to keep highlighting the shortcomings of the focus on GDP. But, ultimately I’d prefer to move away from putting a monetary value on all human worthwhile activities. It’s soemthing that has intensified in the neoliberal period. The commodification of everything.

          There are some alternatives suggested in the links in my post – although, only flagged in a general way. I mentioned the capabilties approach which focuses as much on process as on goals. Wikipedia’s thumbnail sketch of it:

          Unlike traditional economic measures of success, focused on GDP, utility, income, assets or other monetary measures, the capabilities approach focuses on what individuals are able to do. This approach emphasizes processes as well as outcomes, and draws attention to cultural, social and material dynamics of well-being.

          More on it here:

          Initially Sen argued for five components in assessing capability:

          The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person’s advantage
          Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
          The multi-variate nature of activities giving rise to happiness
          A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
          Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society

          While this starts to move away from a goal oriented, short term, monetary valued approach, I don’t know that “well-being” (of individuals anyway) needs to keep being measured.

          But, before moving to an alternative system, there needs to be some agreement on the underlying values, and a shift in focus away from consumer capitalism.

          • QoT 7.1.2.1.1

            I’m not sure that everybody knows of the narrowness of GDP measurements.

            This. In exactly the same way that every night on the news we get told “the NZX 50 is up ten points!” and the 95% of us who have no clue what that means are meant to accept it as a Good Thing because Michael Wilson says so.

            • McFlock 7.1.2.1.1.1

              the really fucked one is the exchange rate – positive green arrow with a rise, negative red down arrow with a fall – regardless of whether that’s a good thing or bad thing for the economy.

          • Bill 7.1.2.1.2

            So whereas Dr Vandana Shiva calls for a new economy ( a non-patriarchal economy can only be something other than a market economy), the information linked to in your comment appears, on first reading at least, to be looking to inject other, more desirable measures into the context of a market economy. And that can’t work – it’s insane. Even if such other measures were introduced and promoted, the nature and focus of the market economy and its associated institutions would ensure they were rolled back.

            So, if my reading of the links you provided is right, Shiva calls for revolution and the ‘capability approach’ link has people calling for well meaning, but ultimately hopeless, reform.

            But, before moving to an alternative system, there needs to be some agreement on the underlying values, and a shift in focus away from consumer capitalism.

            I can’t for the life of me understand the penchant for dividing thought and action that’s implied there. The alternative is the shift – the shift is the alternative. Anything else is just pushing things out into the ‘never never’ and avoiding action at the cost of preserving current trajectories.

            But anyway, didn’t you already suggest, or at least signpost some reasonable and uncontentious values in your post? Surely it’s not so difficult to determine the values needed to underpin sustainability, inclusiveness, cooperation and achieving collective aims and purposes? And then, just as surely, it’s fairly easy to figure the necessary characteristics of a system that would, not only promote those underlying values, but act as a disincentive or barrier to a resurgence of the current crop of undesirable values that the market economy rewards?

            • karol 7.1.2.1.2.1

              Action and values should go together. But acting without undersanding the values incorporated within the actions could be counter productive.

              While the wrongness of the current system and its values may seem very obvious to you, it clearly isn’t to many – eg the example of the evening financial/market repots on the nightly news.

              And part of my post then went on the cover the wrongness of being “gender blind”. There’s been some people on TS posit such a gender blind approach to the economy. So I think it is useful to have an explanation of how gendered values are incorporated into the current mainstream approach to the economy – and ditto for other significant areas of socially-defined differences between people.

              • Bill

                I don’t think I have any issue with any of that. I guess I’m just wary of descriptive analysis being seen as ‘the be all and end all’ and that it then delays any taking of action. (The endless debates/discussions on AGW come to mind on that front, where winning the argument was seen as somehow doing something, while actually doing something was postponed on the premise that there were people who didn’t believe in AGW.)

                • karol

                  Understand. I’m hoping to do more posts following from this one. Rather than do one long complicated post, sometimes I try to put some of the background source material out there first.

        • Lloyd 7.1.2.2

          GDP measures the flow of oranges around society. It doesn’t measure the total number of oranges. If a single orange is passed around many times a day it has the same effect a single exchange of a bag of oranges.

          A society may be throwing all the oranges away or it may be growing and creating more oranges. The GDP result may well be the same, but the society that is creating more oranges will definitely have more oranges to play with tomorrow.

          If the total number of oranges available to the society is a measure of social success, the society which is growing the number of oranges will be better off than the society with the same GDP which is throwing them away.

          This overall number of oranges in a society doesn’t address the equity of distribution of oranges through the society…..

  8. RedBaronCV 8

    Well if Tighty righty isn’t going to have any kids who is he going to leave all the dosh too? Looks like we’ll all get it in the end.

  9. Macro 9

    Measuring GDP has its place in a developing economy – that was what it was developed for in the first place. But once an economy has reached a level where there is sufficient goods and services to meet the needs of the population it really becomes superfluous. The challenge then for the economy is to ensure an equitable distribution.
    To constantly chase increasing GDP when the needs of the population can already be adequately met is nonsensical and ultimately impossible, as well as endangering the survival of future generations, through the unjustifiable consumption of limited resources.

  10. tricledrown 10

    TA
    Those companies you mentioned.
    Xero hasn’t made a profit yet its just a ponzi scheme for Now it wad started in 2006 its growth is on the back of future predicted earnings it could fall over anytime.
    Pacific biotech startef from govt research at Auckland Uni socialism it hasn’t made aprofit either.
    Did you attend any of your lectures at your state funded Uni.
    I think you were one of those cheats and bought the answers online.

  11. tricledrown 11

    Tighty almighty .
    Diligent not very ru listed on NZ stock exchange 2007 labour govt.
    Another ponzi company hoping for future earnings with no guarantee .
    Profitability zero to .0•25%.
    Where did you get your ecocomics degree!
    You are an example of why so many men in this country are complete failures.
    Your reasoning is that inanimate objects are more important than
    Living beings.

  12. KJT 12

    GDP is hugely flawed measure.

    It has some value in comparing the comparative growth in the monetary economy over time or with other countries, but it excludes so much, as Karol says, that it is a deceptive measure.

    An economy depends on so much more than the proportion that can be measured by monetary flows.

    It doesn’t include the wealth implicit in being able to walk down the road to a clean beach, or the value in living amongst healthy, happy people, for example.

    It equally doesn’t include the value of a retired teacher giving free classes, a volunteer caregiver in the community, an unpaid sports coach or a student learning a trade.

    Paying someone to blow up Christchurch, and the resulting repairs, increases GDP, but has no effect on the real quality of life for anyone.
    Paid child carers increase GDP, but the same essential job undertaken by their mother does not.

    I like Bhutan’s “gross national happiness index”.

    Then there is the whole concept of continual economic growth. A logical impossibility in a world with finite resources.

  13. SPC 13

    This leads onto the UI issue.

    The role of the non working partner recognised in more than WFF tax credits

    Access to the dole in their own right because

    a seeking but yet to find work (by right as independent labour)
    b providing child care (same conditions as DPB)
    c non professional caring for others than their children
    d undertaking voluntary work

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