In 1934, Simon Kuznets introduced the idea of the Gross Domestic Product to Congress. The GDP is the measure of all the goods and services that change hands in the country in a year. It is the number we use to measure our standard of living. When GDP goes up, we are theoretically doing well. When it goes down, we are doing poorly. That is the theory.
There is a movement to dislodge this measure because it masks the reality of people’s lives. A growing number of economists are successfully arguing that the scarcity-based, money-centric model is not serving us, but destroying us. It puts no value on generosity, relationship, kindness, cooking, gardening, watching kids and all the non-money exchanges that comprise neighborliness and build community.
Starting with this set of principles, author Mark Anielski, in his book The Economics of Happiness, has developed an alternative measure to the GDP: what he calls a Genuine Progress Index, GPI. Included in this measure are the very human functions of parenting and eldercare, free time, volunteerism, household infrastructure, savings rate, ecological footprint, air and water quality, fish and wildlife, voter participation — many of the things that John and I say grow out of abundant communities.
Anielski also assesses the usual measures of economic exchanges, employment and income, but they are not the point; they are just some of the factors that constitute the wealth of a family and community.
The Economics of Neighborliness: A Requirement for an Abundant Community
by Peter Block