GDP image

Measuring Well-Being, beyond GDP

For decades the Gross Domestic Product has been the gold-standard for measuring economic health, wealth and progress. GDP has become entrenched in our discourse, but it is a remarkably narrow measure of a nation’s overall well-being. It defines progress through the narrow lens that more is better – more consumption, more production, more exports. GDP entirely neglects indicators such as income inequality, the cost of underemployment and pollution, environmental impact and resource depletion or a broad range of social indicators including the cost of crime, the value of volunteerism and leisure time, education and community. As a measure of “progress” and national “health”, it is sorely lacking. Which is why many are looking toward alternative measures of well-being, that take into consideration economic, environmental and social indicators. Here are two short video clips which explain why and how GDP fails to paint a complete picture of growth, progress and well-being in the new economy, and how alternative measures such as Gross National Happiness or the Human Development Index can help us. Check out these videos and we would love to hear your thoughts: Well-Being in the New Economy What is Gross National...

Read More


Feel Good Giving

Here’ s a bit of a lighter article asking how our giving makes us most happy. Although the experiments cited in the article are somewhat less than rigorously scientific, the article suggests that it really is more “blessed” to give than to receive. The authors go on to list three conditions under which prosocial spending (in other words, giving toward other’s benefit) thrives; namely, when it feels like a choice, when it connects us with others, and when it makes a clear impact. There are certainly many different avenues through which we can share our resources, from large multi-national development organizations to mid-sized local non-profits, through churches or directly to individuals. Our giving may be done in isolation or through collaboration. We may never know the end-recipient or we may be in close relationship with them. How do the three conditions suggested in the article – choice, relationality, and clear impact – affect how and why you...

Read More

Manifesto for the Economy of Life

Below is an excerpt from the São Paulo Statement on International Financial Transformation for the Economy of Life (World Council of Churches, 2012). We would love to hear your thoughts on this manifesto. Is there anything you would add to the creed? Does it speak from (and to) the intersection of faith, economics and justice?  The 2008 global financial and economic crash increased poverty and unemployment among millions in the global North and worsened and deepened poverty, hunger and malnutrition among even larger numbers in the global South, already experiencing decades of poverty and deprivation caused by injustices in international financial and economic relations. A system of speculation, competition and inadequate regulation has failed to serve the people and instead has denied a decent standard of life to the majority of the world’s population. The situation is urgent. Critical theological reflection on the material and collective bases of life has been intrinsic to the call to be faithful disciples of Christ and has expressed itself through theological contemplative praxis that has sought transformative liberation from unjust socio-political, cultural and economic structures, thereby promoting the fullness of life for all creation. Modernity has, however, brought with it an economic model based on profit and self-interest disconnected from faith and ethics. This has led to the ideological justification of colonialism, the despair of...

Read More

How a Religious Upbringing Affects the Views and Values of Money

Recently, I had the pleasure and good fortune to tour a class of second graders, proudly showing off a set of budgeting projects. In an attempt to learn about subtraction, addition, and the general wisdom of money management, they had, for several weeks, all been living (at least during math class) in a constructed world in which they were the heads of households – managing planned debits and credits, as well as surprise setbacks and windfalls provided by their teacher. At numerous times throughout the project they had to make decisions about spending and saving, which was logged in a ledger, and which all accumulated in the total balance they had to show at the end of the project. One of the decisions they had to make, at about the halfway point of the project, read as follows: “You are asked at Church to donate money to charity. Do you donate $1, $2, or $5?” I looked at the first child’s ledger entry – he chose $1. Then the second: $1. And so on, and so on. With each child I went to, I struck up a conversation inquiring about this selection: Why the lowest amount? Why not the $5 pick? I was told by nearly every child – the point of budgeting is to save money, duh! Why...

Read More

Is There Such a Thing as a Good CEO?

Check out this story about Haruka Nishimatsu, President and CEO of Japan Airlines, one of the biggest airlines in the world: He takes public transportation, shares an office with co-workers, stands in line to eat at the cafeteria. When things got tough in the recession, Haruka cut all his corporate perks, and cut his own salary — making less than his pilots. He felt he needed to share their own pain, and struggle to figure out things like how to fix a water heater that breaks. In his own words, “Relating to what his employees experience” is key to his own survival. When asked about CEOs that make 400 times their workers, he laughed contagiously, and said, “I can’t imagine… Businesses that pursue money first fail.” He went on to say this is a very basic ethic that much of the corporate world has forgotten – people come before profits. In 1965 the average U.S. worker made $7.52 per hour while the average CEO made $330.38 per hour. A few years ago that study was done again, and the average worker wage slumped to $7.39 – the average CEO wage skyrocketed to $1,566.68 per hour. Some CEO’s are making as much as $16,000 per hour… more than their workers make in an entire year....

Read More