Particularly Difficult to Question “Progress”

Further resistance to rethinking “economic growth” will arise because it is one of the last remaining remnants of our belief in “progress” (which is, itself an Enlightenment faith that does much to give our lives meaning).

As we will see soon, such faith in progress is still perhaps our dominant meta-narrative.

People rarely forsake meta-narratives lightly and are much more likely to accept challenges to a meta-narrative when another is waiting to replace it.  Such is not the case with economic growth and progress.  If we lose them, or if our analysis causes them to become something other than what they are now, our lives will have lost both an anchor and a beacon.  Hence, our need to redefine “wealth” in a way that gives us a goal towards which to strive.

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Comments

Mayu says:

I was at an event today on paid sick days where Andy Shallal, the founder of Busboys and Poets, talked about how our material wealth hasn’t been contributing to our general happiness and then mentioned how the “genuine progress indicator” was being considered by the governor of Maryland.
I looked up GPI (on Wikipedia) and it makes sense to me, but is this the sort of thing you are talking about in terms of measuring our growth? Do you think that there will ever be a formula that is comprehensive enough to include all variables of progress?

Joel L. Swerdlow, Ph.D. says:

Interesting. Yes, we will be discussing in detail the GPI (genuine progress indicator) and other such candidates to replace GDP (gross domestic product). All, not surprisingly, have major problems; e.g. they involve many subjective judgments. As we look at this, we will explore whether complex societies such as ours can have one, single measure for “growth” and “progress.” Maybe that concept of a single measure creates too many distortions.

Thoughts?

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