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How We Measure Prosperity

As someone who studied economics (both formally and personally), I’ve never liked the way financial analysts, economists, and policymakers rely on GDP growth as an indicator of economic health or social well-being. While the measure may sometimes help to determine a nation’s overall prosperity, it says nothing about whether the average person is thriving.

How much of that GDP growth goes to the lower- or middle-classes for example? How much does corporate profit or financial investment help the typical worker? A nation can be rich, but most of its people could still be poor. I’m not sure what could effectively replace traditional measurements, if any. But I think we need a change in the way we define what is an ideal economic system.

What good is a fast-growing economy if most people don’t benefit from it? What good is a thriving business environment if those businesses aren’t paying workers livable wages, or providing affordable services and products? What matters in any society are the people that make up said society – this should be common sense, but it’s remarkable how much we inadvertently misconstrue growth in wealth and economics with growth in social prosperity? Again, there is clearly a connection between these things, but it shouldn’t be taken for granted.

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