Sunday, September 18, 2011

Taking Stock, Just With Better Metrics

Steve Harper may be in church today, probably seeking some sort of absolution for his sins, but the real altar at which jokers like Steve worship at is sepulcher of the Lord GDP.   It's gross domestic product that turns Harper's crank.   Those who seek to defile it, like Air Canada employees or postal workers with talk of strikes, are promptly flogged silly with back to work legislation.    Steve will defend Canada's GDP at all costs or at least at any cost someone else gets to bear.

But Steve is a throwback to an earlier time, let's call it the 80's, where he remains firmly mired.  He's one of those, "if it was good enough for my grandfather, it's good enough for me" sort of guys.   That may work for Steve but it's a dead end mentality for Canada.   Steve's GDP fetish is a perfect example.

Steve hasn't noticed but the world is changing.   The 80's are over and they're not coming back (provided we're vigilant to prevent a return of the padded shoulder).   We're slowly coming to recognize inadequacies of old fashioned GDP.   Two years ago it was France's Nick Sarkozy who championed a new measure of economic performance, one that factored in things like sustainability and well-being.    Now that same thinking is trying to get a toehold in China where economist and senior government advisor Niu Wenyuan is pushing to reform the GDP standard.

"The GDP quality index is coming under political pressure, not from the central government but from the local level," Niu told the Guardian at his office in the Chinese Academy of Sciences. "I have had a lot of phone calls in recent days from the offices of provincial governors asking why they ranked so low."

Niu's formulation combines five elements: Economic quality, which considers the amount of resources and energy needed to generate each 10,000 yuan of GDP; social quality, which includes differences of incomes between rich and poor that might led to destructive riots; environmental quality, which assesses the amount of waste and carbon generated per 10,000 yuan of economic activity; quality of life, which figures in life expectancy and other human development indicators; and management quality, which measures the proportion of tax revenue used for public security, the durability of infrastructure and the proportion of public officials in the overall population.

Imagine judging an economy not just by how much stuff it makes but by how well it serves its society.  Imagine evaluating projects like the Tar Sands according to the amount of waste and carbon generated per unit of economic activity.  We might as well imagine it because it's not going to happen in Harperland.   This sort of thinking would seem rank heresy to the rigid, fundamentalist-padlocked mind of our Ruler.  It represents the sort of clear thinking that holds no value in today's Canada.

1 comment:

Anyong said...

Canadians don't know this.....working people in China DO NOT pay taxes. The Government owns the banking system and is the one reason the Chinese Government is so very wealthy. The ordinary working Chinese do not invest abroad either.