Wednesday, August 12, 2009

We Get What We Measure So Measure What Matters


It is often said that all of us come into this world on equal footing, naked, and fully dependent with nothing in our possession. However, our genetic make-up, inherent biological factors, the environment we are born into and to whom we find ourselves depending are anything but equal. Even identical twins do not start out on "equal footing" entirely, as conditions in the womb and factors outside the womb can alter their experience enough where one twin may start out with a slight advantage over the other.

Having said that, assuming we believe that civilization trumps the law of the jungle - look out for #1 despite what becomes of your fellow man and that those with power control the lives of those without - it is imperative that society function to level the playing field rather than tilt it to those fortunate enough to be born with the proverbial silver spoon.

One way to level the playing field is to measure and pay attention to what matters, rather than to what increases the advantages of the already advantaged. Economic goals and economic efficiency should not be the only indicators of how well our society is functioning, and the economic indicators we use should reflect more than unsustainable growth, profit and money, as they are means, not ends.

Gross National Product (GDP), the basic measurement we use to gauge our nation's economic performance, is really the rate at which the economy extracts real resources from the environment and transforms it into toxic garbage, according to David Korten, author of Agenda for a New Economy: From Phantom Wealth to Real Wealth.

Corrective action begins with recognition that our economic crisis is, at its core, a moral crisis. Our economic institutions and rules, even the indicators by which we measure economic performance, consistently place financial values ahead of life values.

We have been measuring economic performance against GDP, or gross domestic product, which essentially measures the rate at which money and resources are flowing through the economy. Let us henceforth measure economic performance by the indicators of what we really want: the health and well-being of our children, families, communities, and the natural environment. -- David Korten
The growth of corporate power and propaganda has defined, in particular, the last thirty years, perpetuating a continuously deepening inequality. It's time we take a look at the ways we perceive and measure progress from our economy to our educational system to our health care system, etc.

Forbes article Merit by the Numbers examines the way in which we assess the reputation of our colleges and universities. Rather than ranking institutions of higher learning by what their graduates contribute, their value is estimated based on the credentials of the people they admit. This "preoccupation with backwards-looking statistical criteria also severs the tie between admissions and mission."

The old paradigm that worships money in and of itself, and values money more than life, must be discarded, as it creates a *wealth sucking system, that can only lead to the destruction of life, the very definition of evil.
"This is the duty of our generation as we enter the twenty-first century -- solidarity with the weak, the persecuted, the lonely, the sick, and those in despair. It is expressed by the desire to give a noble and humanizing meaning to a community in which all members will define themselves not by their own identity but by that of others." -- Elie Wiesel
* Real wealth - goods and services with utility (for ex. land, food) in addition to more intangible wealth such as ideas; knowledge; health; community; beautiful, natural environment.

As opposed to phantom wealth which is built around an illusion, the illusion that money is wealth, which then translates into the idea that people who are creating—or who are making money are in fact creating wealth. And what Wall Street has become extremely expert at is creating money out of nothing through financial bubbles, through pyramiding lending to create fictitious assets that become collateral for more bank lending, and then combining that with the predatory aspects of usurious lending and deceptive lending and the use of credit cards as a substitute for a living wage—all the games that Wall Street is playing. And it’s actually based on a philosophy that says we don’t need to produce anything as a country, if we can—you know, if we can do all this financial innovation that allows us to create financial assets without producing anything of real value. I mean, it’s absolutely insane. And yet, it is the—it’s been the foundation of our economic policy in this country for decades now.

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