Success and chocolate cakes
Success and chocolate cakes
George Osborne (the Chancellor of Britain) says the 0.6-per-cent rise in our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) shows that the British economy is getting better and the cuts are working. This is strange, because three times more people now have to get food from free food banks. The cuts are improving Britain just like a chainsaw would cut bread.
The government says there’s ‘no good evidence that people are using food banks more because of the cuts’. This is true. It’s probably just a coincidence. I expect no-one needs food banks, because everyone’s 0.6-per-cent richer, but people love it when other people see them there. They’re very fashionable. That’s why everyone wears their best party dresses to go there, and takes photos of themselves to post on Instagram next to a big pile of cheap meat.
If 350,000 people need free food to survive, this might show that the cuts were very bad for the poor. But that’s the problem with us lefties. we think ‘compassionate feelings’ and ‘caring for the vulnerable’ are more important than consumption (buying things).
GDP is a bad way to see the success of a country. It’s not good to show that money is more important than pollution, education, or human happiness. It’s like online dating personal information that says ‘I earnt $250,000 last year. Isn’t that good? PS Please don’t ask about my criminal record, the horrible smell in my fridge, or why I cry all night. It isn’t important. Only one thing is important: $250,000! Please marry me.’
GDP in the US is higher than most European countries, but Americans get less holiday time. Europeans probably laugh when they hear this, and say ‘Yes, America, you are doing well, and we are not. Now go to work – I’m going to sit in the sun.’ Obama talks about GDP increasing, but he doesn’t talk about unemployment increasing. He says: hey, millions of people don’t have work, but we’re spending more money than ever before on drones. Yes We Can!
Some people say it is too subjective to make judgements about happiness and wellbeing. But we should remember that New Internationalist readers are right about all things, and if we believe it, it is definitely correct.
Also, there are many ways to judge happiness. We could judge the success of a country by the number of people who have learnt a second language; or the number of cakes made per km². We would know we’re doing okay if those numbers go up. I want to see economic reports that say ‘Spain is the country with the least reality TV, and Brazil has the most chocolate chips in its cakes. And in Britain, 100 per cent of the Iain Duncan Smiths were thrown into the River Thames this year. That’s a 100-per-cent increase! Let’s hope they can continue with that excellent achievement.’
So we can feel happy, because we already live our lives in ways that are not good for GDP. We recycle, we buy ethically, we buy food locally. When the government finally understands and starts judging society based on these ideals, we can be pleased with ourselves. But being pleased with ourselves might not help the country improve.
Chris Coltrane is a stand-up comedian and anti-austerity activist. chriscoltrane.com Twitter: chris_ coltrane
As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/columns/2013/12/01/measuring-success/