This government seems to have confused the means and the ends. Growth and money have become the ends, when they only ever should have been the means. It is a legitimate question: what do growth and money give us? Obviously we need some level of wealth (to eat, have shelter etc at a bare minimum), and until we have that level we need to grow to it. But what does more growth give us now? We have plenty of wealth as a society, what do additional toys gain us? He who dies with the most toys is still dead.
Surely what should matter now is that we have a happy, fulfilled society, where people have the opportunity to do what they want. And call me utilitarian, I mean all people, not the wealthy elite.
The political right often confuse “opportunity” with choice. We’ll improve things by letting you choose, they say. Choose which hospital, which school you go to, and you can get the best. Except when some choose the best schools and hospitals, others are left with the not-so-good schools and hospitals. That will be the poorer in society; who aren’t able to move about as easily, who aren’t as well educated as to how to choose, who are too busy working for a crust to have time to choose.
Opportunity arises by making the not-so-good schools and hospitals great as well. Then all have the opportunities of education and good health.
Fulfilment tends to arise from the ability to take the opportunities one is given.
Happiness is much more tricky. Watching TV lowers happiness significantly, so bland entertainment doesn’t fix things. Having people richer than you decreases happiness – more equal societies tend to be happier. Better work-life balance, and spending much more time with family and friends rather than being all about money and growth definitely increases happiness.
So I think this government – and possibly society – has it wrong with the relentless focus on growth and prosperity. Prosperity (as a society) is here, and the environment can’t sustain growth forever (or even current levels of consumption). So we should be focussed on people, their fulfilment and happiness – not on just getting more of the benjamins.