Monday 6 December 2010

I agree with 'Dave'

Well, up to a point, anyway.  The idea that our wealth as a society should not be measured in financial terms alone is not a new idea, but it’s one I’d support.  In a world of finite resources and rising population, unbridled consumerism is an untenable future.  But accepting that there is a limit on economic growth doesn’t mean that we cannot become wealthier in other ways; including those other things in a measure of wealth can help us to understand that.
The idea is not without its problems though.  For the have nots to be told by the haves (whether internally to our own country or on an international basis) that they should measure wealth in other ways doesn’t help to feed the hungry or house the homeless.  I normally try and avoid referring to the personal situation of individual politicians, but in this case it’s relevant – a cabinet of millionaires telling us that we must measure our wealth in ways other than the purely financial runs the danger of sounding like an excuse for maintaining the current balance of wealth and power. 
Including other things in our assessment of social wealth depends on those other things being valued by all, not on them being a substitute for material wealth for only some.  People can only really start to value non-material wealth once their basic material needs are met, and are unlikely to be terribly impressed with the concept before reaching that point.
Basic material needs sounds like something which can be turned into absolute terms, but in reality it’s evaluated in comparative terms, and cannot avoid considering the question of aspiration.  Aspiration within a society is likely to be stronger where the difference between the top and the bottom is greatest.  Reducing that level of material aspiration depends on reducing inequality.
That, for me, is the biggest problem with what Cameron has been saying – the idea of building a measure of prosperity which goes beyond the merely financial depends, if it is to be accepted, on the pursuit of greater equality of access to resources.  And I think we can be reasonably confident that that is not what he has in mind.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

"an excuse for maintaining the current balance of wealth and power."

Surely, that is the very raison d'etre of the Tory party?