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Did this subject make the headlines in YOUR favorite paper?  Were people talking about this at the water cooler where you work? I wish they were!

In late September, the G20 got together in Pittsburgh—pretty dull so far, huh?  In itself this expanded economic gathering marks a shift in power to China and India and the Southern hemisphere’s “developing” nations. But on the way there, the President of France, Nicolas Sarkozy, who is considered a conservative among the foundational G8, made a “passionate plea” for a broader vision of the economy.

Sarkozy has created a special commission to revamp France’s national statistics-gathering. A new study by economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen has argued that calculating the Gross Domestic Product as a measure of the economy gives nations a skewed policy picture. I was jumping up and down, I was so happy hearing this!

Why? Because I love freedom-fries?  Freedom-Fries--Other-Stupidity-Well-Have-ToBecause French workers get 36 vacation days and a 35-hour work week, not to mention national healthcare?  Yes, yes, all that—but no, I was most excited because this is something Marilyn Waring, a young New Zealand Minister of Parliament, said 30 years ago!

She published a great book titled If Women Counted. Waring toured the world, talking about the way the GDP and its statistics left earth’s and women’s foundational contributions economically invisible. As a result, she said, our mother earth and family/social life didn’t “count” in our economic measures, and she showed the damaging results in the environment, food systems and our quality of life.

We are still living with those GDP results now.  This story from Joe Wisenthal, a business writer here in the U.S., calls the GDP a “crappy” measurement. See the details of why The Business Insider published this here.

As an American, you might also be interested in this story on Sarkozy, the GDP, and Canada’s positioning compared to the U.S.  in The Star in Toronto. By Martin Regg Cohn, it’s titled “How to measure Gross National Happiness,” something Bhutan is already doing.

As I’ve often argued on this blog, biology gets left out of the “economy” all together with GDP measurements. All the garbage gets externalized to Gaia. Passionate parents and lovers of all kinds get lumped together and misnamed the “informal economy.” The informal economy only cares and sacrifices and enjoys and supplies the gifts of life and makes an economy socially possible. Our juiciest, most valuable times, the reasons we work at all, should be renamed the “essential economy,” the “foundational economy.”  I call it our Eros economy because, without our deepest passions valued,  we’re dead without knowing it.

Eros’ love economy can be made visible. Some countries, like Canada and Britain, are already shaping policy around more holistic time and movement accounts. Without these measurements, our lives and the earth’s will remain the unnamed starving elephant in the room. A few will make out like bandits and leave the rest of us footing the bill. The GDP enables this description of the economy as warfare, something Waring also pointed out.

The GDP was originally designed by John Maynard Keynes, to help England rationalize and finance World War II. Later adopted by the U.N., the GDP’s measurement system has reliably helped world leaders view and sell war as something good for the economy.

Duh. No wonder. It conveniently leaves uncounted any debits that come from war, including environmental destruction, or damage to women and children and families and social functioning. And here’s the bonus. According to the GDP, the more expensive the war machinery, the more profit we get to add to our Gross Domestic Product! So corporations can count on fat national contracts—and citizens get to pay for it. Click here to see how much we’ve spent already on the two most recent wars.

.The GDP is not only skewed and crappy, it is destructive.


My son Keith sent me a link to a great video by Jonathan Jarvis. It helps explain in plain English why many of our mortgages are now called toxic, worldwide. He naturally has an interest, living in Las Vegas, where the real-estate market has bottomed out-or maybe it hasn’t yet.

As you’ll see, the whole credit system needs an antidote, as some international investment bankers’ “packaging” of risk (actually an exploitation of our nation’s housing) is poisoning the economic system with an overload of debt, the dark side of credit. Who are the “investors” this video talks about, who bank at international investment banks? To whom do they answer?

Crisis of Credit

Not to us. Our nation’s leaders are quick to rescue the “big players” by our nation’s enslavement to still more debt, just as they are now moving to rescue the American dream in our car industry. Yet GM’s Rick Wagoner leaves the company with $20 million in retirement (according to ABC) after having doled out more American jobs to robots or to countries where labor is not organized to defend itself. GM now plans to cut 49,000 employees by the end of 2009. Who does Wagoner and GM’s board answer to? The same international investors Obama and Geithner answer to at The Treasury and the Federal Reserve.

The film Roger and Me explains what has long been big autos’ direction for American workers, driven by the same international investors. Some are rightly asking, who exactly will buy autos if workers, even here in the U.S., cannot afford cars? Others ask, what will happen to earth’s climate if our world fills up with more cars?

story-of-stuffSee a funny short history, Annie Leonard’s The Story of Stuff, for a clear picture of why the same economic system that doesn’t work for mortgages or us, doesn’t work for the commonwealth of our nation, or for any nation really.  It undermines Eros, the energy that charges human hearts, and it surely hurts Gaia, a healthy planet. This economy has worked, up to now, for “international investors” to whom everyone, from international corporations to nations worldwide, owes yet more borrowed and bogus paper money.

The Story of Stuff

Thanks to my student, Elizabeth Johnson, for writing so vividly about the film by this title. I decided to view it, and then had to link it here. Falling food gets transformed in this hour-long video, from plastic food packages dropped on war-torn barren ground from an airlift, to dozens of varieties of fruit overhead in a wild garden designed by Bill Mollison.

Mollison is the New Zealander who coined the word permaculture. A former logger, who noticed that none of the loggers could afford to build a house from the lumber they were felling, withdrew to a remote forest and, like Thoreau, observed nature closely. He wrote about what he discovered of inter-related ecosystems. He said the paradigm of war on nature in present-day factory farming destroyed natural relationships, endangering bio-diversity and health. When he brought his ideas forward, they caught fire. He began to design plots of land to produce foods easily with regional nature in mind. Most importantly, perhaps, his designs can even work to enliven cities and suburbs. Here’s a link to the organization rooted in his ideas.

Mollison doesn’t say this, but he communed with Gaia and Eros. He’s a lover and shunned war-making. His passionate commitment to Gaia’s innate wisdom, a little crazy and persistent with a sexy power, overcame conventional opposition. His words woke us up to our crucial need to rediscover devotion and attention to life in all its forms–quick, before it’s too late.

The lyrics from Dire Straits came to mind when I read an article about peak oil by James Howard Kunstler.  Kunstler wrote The Long Emergency and other great books says this about American delusional thinking in the latest issue of Population Press (Fall/Winter 2008):

Years ago, U.S. negotiators at a United Nations environmental conference told their interlocutors that the American lifestyle is “not up for negotiation.” This stance is, unfortunately, related to two pernicious beliefs that have become common in the United States in recent decades. The first is the idea that when you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. (Oprah Winfrey advanced this notion last year with her promotion of a pop book called The Secret, which said, in effect, that if you wish hard enough for something, it will come to you.) One of the basic differences between a child and an adult is the ability to know the difference between wishing for things and actually making them happen through earnest effort.

The companion belief to “wishing on a star” is the idea that one can get something for nothing. This derives from America’s new favorite religion: not evangelical Christianity but the worship of unearned riches. (The holy shrine to this tragic belief is Las Vegas.) When you combine these two beliefs, the result is the notion that when you wish upon a star, you’ll get something for nothing. This is what underlies our current fantasy, as well as our inability to respond intelligently to the energy crisis.

While Kunstler is talking about energy needs, his ideas can be applied to financial realms, where “wishing on a star” and “something for nothing” are cornerstones on Wall Street and on Main Street, where bank “credit” is created out of air to become money. See Ellen Brown

Kunstler and other formidable writers (including Lester Brown and Al Gore) are featured in Volume 14, Number 4, which is not yet up on the Population Press website, but it is worth a visit to see past issues as well as a scary ticker that shows population growth and the contrasting figure of arable land, which remains  static. Ouch!