There’s more to wealth than just money
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.