Real Costs & Genuine Progress
Do we believe that the more we produce and consume the better off we are? That's what the GDP (Gross Domestic Progress) tells us. Yet the GDP fails to account for the whole picture of our so-called progress. For example, the petroleum industry is heavily subsidized by the government both directly for things like exploration, and indirectly through tax breaks. We citizens pay for these subsidies with our taxes, and not just through the heavy taxes we pay at the pump. What would a gallon of gas cost if the "true" cost were reflected in what we pay?
Other costs not visibly paid for are depletion of resources, pollution, climate change, poverty, crime. Shouldn't we consider as some kind of cost the loss of over 300,000 farms, the lynch pin of economic and social life in our heartland, that went under as huge agribusiness moved in? And what about costs to your health from stress and environmental toxicity, diminishing open space, wilderness; absence of beauty, loss of night sky; loss of leisure time? Disease and illness are elements of the Gross Domestic Product (because they are quantifiable; they create jobs). But good health is not quantifiable. Hence, a healthy person is actually a drag on the economy, as the GDP sees it. And what of Art, Music and Literature, which have been disappearing even as extra-curricular subjects in schools for years.
The happiness and fullness of a person's life is not quantifiable, but shouldn't this be included if we are to measure true progress. What we all value---a clean environment, peaceful and safe communities, good health, the opportunity to develop our potential, recreation, spiritual wellbeing--is not measured in any way. Several groups are working with a Genuine Progress Index (GPI) and other approaches which more accurately reflects how we're doing.