How should we measure a successful economy? The current measures we use are helpful but nevertheless have flaws. Gross Domestic Product measures how much we produce. The assumption is the more things we have the better it is for us. It is also a likely indicator that the more we make the richer our country. Now we know that once we have secured our basic needs (i.e, healthcare, housing, food, employment,) and a modicum of a few things we want, more things will not make us happy. So there is a limit to what things can do for us. In our current economy there is a huge divide between the rich and poor. The more we make appears to make the rich richer but does not necessarily make the poor any richer.
Another indicator people use is the unemployment rate. The lower the rate the better the economy. This is the belief a job makes for satisfaction. But if you work harder and harder for less and less as has been the case in the last few decades, employment is not a good indicator of wealth or satisfaction. It is also true that any employment is not necessarily good. If you work at a job that decreases your lifespan such as a coalminer that cannot be a good measure of your circumstances.
Which brings us to another measure people use: life expectancy. The belief that the more years one lives the better off they are. Of course this does not measure the quality of life. If you live longer but you live in poor housing, income is low, you never get the feeling of accomplishment of production; this can not be good.
Which leads us to a more progressive measure: the quality of life. This assumes if the average person in a country has a solid quality of life things must be going well in that country. Of course that measure is skewed by those who have much balancing out the poor who have so little. Thus for the middle class and above things may be honkey-dory but for those under the middle class this measure may not mean anything.
Which leads me to the measure I think is most important and moral. The quality of life for the poorest among you. Think about it: if the poors’ quality of life is good then everyone else will at least rate good. The right instantly will proclaim this does not motivate the job creators. This does not give motivation to the poor to strive for better. They will slide by contributing nothing to society. This is the belief that laziness is the human condition. This assumes that having the security of a comfortable fall will not motivate people to be innovative. It is the theology of human depravity. And this is the rub between the right and the left way of doing things. The right believes everyone is out to get by or to put one over on you (projection maybe). The left believe in evening the field as much as possible so that everyone has a chance to live up to their potential. The left knows there will always be some shirkers but they will be overwhelmed by those who wish to explore their potential. Theologically speaking there is a little good in all of us and we have the freedom to choose to be good or evil. We are not destined to do wrong every time.
The right also have a belief that those who live by the rules will thrive and there are those who have already achieved their wealth (the rich) and they are the elected and the elect do not need to be held down (taxes) by the poor. Now you may notice that the right’s theology differs for each economic class. The poor are depraved and the rich have some preordained right to good things. They are the elected. Now the left looks at the rich and sees the potential for depravity and feels a need to have checks and balances so they do not oppress the poor. Interestingly while they do not have the dichotomy of poor bad and rich good as the right does, they do think the poor more likely good and the rich more likely bad. Power and money corrupt.
So the right could care less about government programs for the poor. The left could care less about making the rich a little less so. That is why the right emphasizes GDP, small government, and the deficit. The left meanwhile emphasizes quality of life, social programs, and regulations on corporations. But the problem with the left is that too often they measure the quality of life of the middle class at the expense of the poor. We need economic measures that look at the enhancement of the poor.
So think of your own beliefs about the human condition. Are we totally depraved and not to be trusted? Do we have an elect\elite that do not need to be slowed by others? Or do you believe we have the ability to sometimes choose good? Do we need to keep a balance on those who have much because they can choose good but also evil? I contend that how you answer these questions to a large part will condition your views about what we should use as measures of the economy and how government should operate in the world.