There’s more to wealth than just money

The Week Middle East - - News - Ju­lian Bag­gini The Guardian

Should we judge our na­tion’s progress through GDP growth fig­ures or by as­sess­ing lev­els of hap­pi­ness and well-be­ing? Nei­ther, says Ju­lian Bag­gini: the first mea­sure is too ar­bi­trary; the sec­ond too sub­jec­tive. In­stead, we should mea­sure peo­ple’s ac­cess to the things that en­able them to live well, such as af­ford­able hous­ing, good med­i­cal care, healthy food and tech­nol­ogy. For the re­al­ity is that a big­ger bank bal­ance is only of ben­e­fit to the ex­tent that it pro­vides you with more of these things. If your pay rise is far out­stripped by house price in­fla­tion, you’re no bet­ter off. Con­versely, peo­ple’s “real wealth” can im­prove even during a slump. Look at Japan, where liv­ing stan­dards have risen for years de­spite the lack of, un­til re­cently, what is nor­mally un­der­stood by eco­nomic growth. So­ci­eties don’t get richer just by in­creas­ing the size of their “cash pot”; they also do so “by ex­ploit­ing the same or fewer re­sources bet­ter”. That’s worth re­mem­ber­ing when it comes to tack­ling in­equal­ity. Ev­ery­one as­sumes we have to re­duce the in­come gap be­tween rich and poor, but what mat­ters more is im­prov­ing peo­ple’s qual­ity of life. It’s not all about the money.

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