In 2018, Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand, SIN countries, established the network of Wellbeing Economy Governments to challenge the acceptance of GDP as the ultimate measure of a country’s success. In this visionary talk, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon explains the far-reaching implications of a “well-being economy” — which places factors like equal pay, childcare, mental health and access to green space at its heart — and shows how this new focus could help build resolve to confront global challenges.
From the transcript of a TED talk given in Edinburgh, July 2019: “Just over a mile away from here, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, is Panmure House. Panmure House was the home of the world-renowned Scottish economist Adam Smith. In his important work “The Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith argued, amongst many other things, that the measurement of a country’s wealth was not just its gold and silver reserves. It was the totality of the country’s production and commerce. I guess it was one of the earliest descriptions of what we now know today as gross domestic product, GDP.”
“Now, in the years since, of course, that measurement of production and commerce, GDP, has become ever more important, to the point that today — and I don’t believe this is what Adam Smith would have intended — that it is often seen as the most important measurement of a country’s overall success. And my argument today is that it is time for that to change.”
“You know, what we choose to measure as a country matters. It really matters, because it drives political focus, it drives public activity. And against that context, I think the limitations of GDP as a measurement of a country’s success are all too obvious. You know, GDP measures the output of all of our work, but it says nothing about the nature of that work, about whether that work is worthwhile or fulfilling. It puts a value, for example, on illegal drug consumption, but not on unpaid care. It values activity in the short term that boosts the economy, even if that activity is hugely damaging to the sustainability of our planet in the longer term.”
“And we reflect on the past decade of political and economic upheaval, of growing inequalities, and when we look ahead to the challenges of the climate emergency, increasing automation, an aging population, then I think the argument for the case for a much broader definition of what it means to be successful as a country, as a society, is compelling, and increasingly so.”