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    David Cameron To Introduce National Well-being Measure In The UK
    By Warren Davies | November 26th 2010 03:18 PM | 23 comments | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Warren

    I am Warren Davies, a 28 year old student of psychology. I am male, and have been my whole life. I became interested in psychology many years ago...

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    This has been hitting the news a lot over here.  I'll probably write more about this as I read/think more about it.  I'm just free-writing my ideas now so don't consider this my definitive position, and of course I welcome any constructive thoughts and criticisms you have.

    Here's the story thus far.  GDP is a flawed measure of societal progress; but, it used to be fantastic.  When a country's basic needs are less well met, GDP is a great indication of how well people are doing.  When a country is rich, things beyond survival come into play, which GDP doesn't pick up.  

    David Cameron, never missing an opportunity to quote a Kennedy, has cited Robert Kennedy's speech to this effect as his motivation.  I mentioned that in another post, but I'll copy it here as I like it so much:

    "Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
    Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."


    Cameron: "I want YOU! (to be happy)"

    That about sums it up.  So GDP doesn't tell us enough - the question is what in fact are these other things that matter, and can and should they be measured?

    Well-being/Happiness

    The well-being measures are proposed as the answer.  What is well-being?  Books have been written about that, but in short, there are two ways it is generally measured.  

    First, you have global measures of well-being.  Here we're talking about subjective well-being (SWB) or life satisfaction - people will be asked, for instance, how satisfied are you with your life on a scale of 1-10.  On the plus side, people get to use whatever criteria they see fit when answering.  But it's not just measuring a cognitive judgement, as some variation in responses can be accounted for by mood.  So it's a kind of summation of how people feel, plus a judgement of how satisfied they are with their lives.  But, it's a self-report measure and subject to all the flaws that go along with that, and the fact that mood accounts for variance means that responses can be influenced by various things (weather, previous questions in a battery of questionnaires, whether the kids are screaming in the background).  So there's pros and cons.

    The second way, is to break down the concept of 'well-being' into things that correlate with or predict it, and measure those.  So for instance, supportive social relationships play a massive role in well-being, so asking questions about people's friendships, relationships, whether they trust their neighbours etc., can point to well-being by proxy.  The problem here is that (a) these are a step removed from well-being and (b) which ones do you use?  There's some subjectivity in this.  Even if you use the ones with the strongest empirical relationship, how did researchers choose to study these things? You can't avoid pushing a particular definition of well-being onto people by measuring it in this way.

    National well-being measures are not new.  There's the Wold Values Survey, Gallup's Surveys, The Eurobarometer, and Germany have a panel which measures satisfaction (among other things).  However, the problem is that they aren't great, and they measure slightly different constructs.  Is it satisfaction, happiness, stress, optimism, do they use a 7-point scale, do they use a 3-point scale, do they use a single-item measure or a multi-item measure?  The latter point is important, as single-item surveys are usually used, but these are more 'flimsy' and open to variation based on things like the questions immediately preceding them.  Also, more work has been done to validate some multi-item measures (like the Satisfaction With Life Scale).

    So while these measures have been done in the past, they have not been done in a uniform, systematic, and comprehensive way for long periods.  



    Should it be measured at all?

    Certainly, GDP is flawed and isn't the full picture of a nation.  For me, if this represents a first step away from a pure money focus, then it's a great idea.  Perhaps we move in the direction of what they focus on, and bringing this in might help us move in a different direction.  And what's the purpose of a thriving economy and a high GDP?  It's the happiness of the citizens, surely, based on the economics idea that people pursue their own happiness effectively, so give them money and choice and they'll do just that.  But what if that premise is flawed?  What if choice is bad for well-being, affluence is bad for well-being, consumerism, environmental damage - and so on for different things that have been historically connected to a high GDP?  Why not measure well-being directly (or as 'directly' as we can with the tools available)

    One important question is whether governments have the right to intervene in people's happiness.  Is that something that should be left to us?  In a way, yes, but in another sense everything governments do has the potential to impact people's well-being, and their actions are intended (you hope!) to have a positive impact. So they are already interfering in our happiness, why not check up on how they are doing?

    Can it be measured, if so how?

    Another question is whether the tools available are up to the task.  I highly suspect that you think they are not.  When I tell people about studies that measure happiness with questionnaires, I get predictable reactions - "It's too abstract, you can't condense it to a number, people could just respond randomly."  And true it's not perfect, I've mentioned some criticisms above, but there are others.  On the plus side, some of the scales correlate sensibly with other things - how often people smile, Duchenne smiles vs. fake smiles, observer reports, and left prefrontal cortex activity.  I like the signal to noise analogy - your radio's a bit crackly, sometimes more than others, but the signal's good enough that you can enjoy the music (well, 'enjoy' might be the wrong word to use these days, and internet radio doesn't crackle, but you get my point).  

    Also, you can combine the different measuring methods described earlier.  Give a multi-item, global measure of SWB, and also measure some of its correlates - supportive social relationships, autonomy, physical exercise, purpose, engagement, and so on.  This wouldn't be prohibitively expensive, especially compared to all the analysis and reporting that goes into GDP.

    Diener and Seligman (2004) also suggest experience sampling methods, where people get a pager which beeps through the day, and they report what they are doing and how they are feeling.  In 2004 when they wrote that, it might have sounded more ambitious than it does today, where everyone and their dog has an iGadget or a Crackberry.

    In an ideal world we'd get some objective data too.  Maybe one day there will  be an EEG app for the iPhones that can scan you and tell you how much positive emotion you have, but we don't have that yet.  They are getting smaller now, I saw a store that sold a basic EEG for about $300, that you can play games on.  I really want one!  Either way, the tools we have will have to do.

    Why well-being?

    Why well-being (as defined earlier), and not something else?  It's perhaps the most global measure of people doing well that you could conceptualise, so at first glance it seems an obvious choice.  But well-being is construct, there isn't a thing called 'well-being' like there is an 'arm' or a 'basal ganglia'; this is but one way of conceptualising and measuring well-being.  Is it right to 'force' that view on society?

    Downsides

    We don't know about the long-term implications of having a focus on happiness.  Depending on where and how the data were displayed, it might actually be a bad thing.  Imagine the news, "The FTSE is up but well-being levels are down, cheer up Britain you're not being happy enough!"  Could it be that by putting well-being in people's faces, and encouraging them to be happier, it might have the opposite effect.  That is, a weird kind of feedback loop where someone adopts happiness as a goal, and checks whether they're there or not, and if they're not, feel bad about it, which makes them less likely to cheer up, which....etc.  But this is why the correlates of well-being mentioned earlier could come into play - then there isn't just a pure focus on well-being, but the encouragement of a wider perspective towards things other than economic growth.

    Is it really the be all and end all?  If there was a lot of inequality in society, let's even say slavery, but the slaves have high well-being, would we change things or not?  There might be things that are worth pursuing even to the detriment of happiness so defined.  For example, some well-being questionnaires show reduced well-being in parent who have children, so there do seem to be some things which we value but they don't pick up.

    Also, might we get dogmatic about well-being? I read something in a paper called Beyond Money by Diener and Seligman (2004) which completely floored me:

    "However, many well-being findings point to societal expenditures that are compatible with a conservative viewpoint.  For example, market democracies have much more well-being than totalitarian dictatorships, so military expenditures that protect and extend democracy will increase global well-being."

    Yeah let's go invade places that are too unhappy, just to cheer them up!  I can imagine a drilling in some future investigation "Yes I do believe the war was justified; it raised global well-being!" Or countries desperately trying to cheer their citizens up for fear of invasion.

    I jest, they don't actually recommend this, they are giving arguments to show that well-being is politically neutral, and won't favour the right or the left (that's another thing worth thinking about too) - but still!

    Also, is there the potential that this data could be twisted and used to give an impression that certain policies are working for the masses when really they are working for the few?  Or some other trickery?

    Most of the criticisms here, although worth being aware of, are a bit philosophical, because no one is saying well-being should be the be all and end all, nor does anyone think this is a hold panacea, shrouded in celestial light that will save everyone from all that ails them.  Rather, well-being measures are being proposed to supplement, not supersede existing metrics, and help us to learn the impact of these measurables -on- well-being.

    I'm sure there was a lot more I wanted to write but I think I'm done.  Like I say I'll probably come back to this topic.  Overall I think it's a good idea and I agree with David Cameron (it does happen occasionally).  What do you think?  Think it's a load of wooly old nonsense?  Or is it a good idea?  Why?  What traps and pitfalls do you envision?  Let me know!


    Reference

    Diener, E.,&Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Beyond money: Toward an economy of well-being. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 5, 1-31.

    Comments

    Gerhard Adam
    I guess my first reaction is that while GDP was clearly focused on economic well-being, it seems that the alternative is to distract people when the economy sucks.  An obvious question is why should something as abstract as "well-being" be measured at all, except as a political tool to propagandize people into thinking that things are better than they are.

    How does any of this translate into anything meaningful beyond political claims so that any given side can claim credit?
    Mundus vult decipi
    Warren Davies
    Thanks for the reply.

    "An obvious question is why should something as abstract as "well-being" be measured at all, except as a political tool to propagandize people into thinking that things are better than they are."



    That's a definite concern.  As for why measure it, so that governments have a more direct way of measuring how happy people are than GDP, which probably does not tell them all that much, because well-being is an end in itself, and also because increased well-being can also be a cause of other outcomes we tend to strive for, like health.  But indeed there's the potential it could be used for the forces of evil.


    "_How does any of this translate into anything meaningful beyond political claims so that any given side can claim credit?"


    Perhaps it will help start us moving towards a lessened focus on GDP?
    Gerhard Adam
    Perhaps it will help start us moving towards a lessened focus on GDP?
    That's certainly one perspective, but the bigger question is why this should be a concern of governments?  GDP was a measure (in economic terms) that was somewhat translatable into the policies that government put into place.  While there is much to criticize in such a measurement, it is also one area that is clearly a reflection of the government itself, whereas other measures seem to dilute that role by focusing on nebulous concepts of individual well-being.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Warren Davies
    Hmm, I can see that there's more of a distance between government and well-being than there is between government and GDP - but why do we measure GDP?  Is it not used as an indication of how happy the citizens are?
    You use the word nebulous, and put well-being in quotes above - is your concern that well-being can't be measured? Or is it that you think this is an area governments don't have a right to tread in either way? (or both?).  To put it another way, take the nebulousness out of the equation; hypothetically, if it was possible to get a totally accurate measure of how happy the citizens of a nation are, should governments use it?
    Gerhard Adam
    I think happiness and well-being are difficult enough to measure without the spin that can be put on it by anyone using that information.  As a result, when government gets involved you have to question whether they're really concerned about "well-being" or simply gauging how negatively the population feels about their party/policies. 

    I don't think that this is a legitimate point of inquiry for the government and I'm not sure how relevant it is even if it could be made highly accurate.  What is the point at where we claim success?  Is it if 75% of a population rates their "well-being" as high?  Does it matter if 25% is miserable?  This is why I used the word "nebulous" because other than individual assessments, making farther ranging statements seems inappropriate.

    We measure GDP because it is an indicator of the economic "health" of a society.  It's not the best indicator and there's much wrong with it, but generally the assumption has been that during periods of growth then there is enough benefit available for others in the society to benefit.  It has always been assumed that individuals are responsible for assessing what they value and how they rate their success at it.  However, in today's environments it gets tedious to listen to people talk about an economy that is faltering, a wider split occurring between the "haves" and "have-nots" and suddenly the government is concerned about our personal values and how we view our particular lot in life.  Every time I hear someone talk about how important family is and our personal relationships, I already know they're saying ... "well things are bad and they aren't going to get better any time soon, so hopefully you have enough people to commiserate with".
    Mundus vult decipi
    Warren Davies
    " As a result, when government gets involved you have to question whether they're really concerned about "well-being" or simply gauging how negatively the population feels about their party/policies.  "


    Well-being indices wouldn't tell them how people feel about the party or policies, they are global judgements so it's more a snapshot of how people feel at a particular time.  


    "I don't think that this is a legitimate point of inquiry for the government and I'm not sure how relevant it is even if it could be made highly accurate.  What is the point at where we claim success?  Is it if 75% of a population rates their "well-being" as high?  Does it matter if 25% is miserable?  "


    At what point do you consider GDP a success?  We keep striving for more and more of it, is there ever a point we reach where we say "OK, we have enough money now, let's focus on other things?".  I see this as more a case of seeing what varies along with this snapshot, and tracking it over time.  


    But that does bring up things like, would it really be used?  Say GDP grows year on year but well-being reduces.  Would a government really say "Woaah guys, better cut back on the economic growth policies!"  Probably not, but the overall index would just be one part of it (hopefully). For example, say they pinpoint a few areas with lower well-being, and also that people feel they have bad relationships and don't trust people, if you've got that data you can try different things to work on it.


    "the assumption has been that during periods of growth then there is enough benefit available for others in the society to benefit.  It has always been assumed that individuals are responsible for assessing what they value and how they rate their success at it"


    At worst, these assumptions are wrong, at best, they should be challenged and tested.  This is a complex one because of things like, we assume the individual can pursue their own values, but at the same time we allow billions to be poured into marketing to tell people what they value.  


    "Every time I hear someone talk about how important family is and our personal relationships, I already know they're saying ... "well things are bad and they aren't going to get better any time soon, so hopefully you have enough people to commiserate with"."


    It does seem a bit like that!  This reminds me of an interesting paper I heard of, I'll dig it up later and write a post about it.  


    On the other hand though, there are countries that manage as high or higher scores than the US on well-being, with much lower wealth, so maybe there's something to be said for that; maybe the right people can get you beyond commiseration (plus other factors of course).








    Gerhard Adam
    Well-being indices wouldn't tell them how people feel about the party or policies, they are global judgements so it's more a snapshot of how people feel at a particular time. 
    Then I guess the obvious question is what's the point of measuring it?
    We keep striving for more and more of it, is there ever a point we reach where we say "OK, we have enough money now, let's focus on other things?".
    But that's the point, isn't it?  If the population keeps growing then the economy needs to do so as well.  I'm not suggesting that this is a viable model, nor that current economic theories are remotely adequate to address such situations, but that is the basis for using GDP.
    ...that people feel they have bad relationships and don't trust people, if you've got that data you can try different things to work on it.
    But that raises the question on why this is government's business.  It seems like this could give rise to some of the worst sorts of social engineering we have yet to imagine.
    On the other hand though, there are countries that manage as high or higher scores than the US on well-being, with much lower wealth, so maybe there's something to be said for that;...
    That's always a risky correlation, because in many ways "well-being" is about gains and losses.  If someone loses wealth (or experiences a decrease in standard of living), then it may well signal a decline in well-being.  Similarly if someone gains wealth, then it may well signal an increase in well-being.  While I realize that this is a gross over-simplification, in many ways this is precisely what gives rise to the feeling of discontent among many people.  In essence there's a sense of betrayal because we were led to believe that if we followed the rules and worked hard, then we could achieve our goals.  There was never any talk about being betrayed by those that you trusted, nor that those that you worked hard for never felt a similar type of loyalty.

    I've observed just during my lifetime such a radical decline in concepts such as company loyalty, then one can't help but wonder how badly you have to screw up before people rebel in the streets.  In general, I suspect that the biggest reason for a decline in "well-being" is the sense that all the propaganda and cheerleading talk we've had from our political leaders is beginning to wear thin, and we're beginning to realize that there is no one looking out for the society of which we are members, nor is there anyone that cares whether we survive it or not.  In short, we're coming dangerously close to an "every man for themselves" kind of mentality.
    Mundus vult decipi
    Warren Davies
    "_Then I guess the obvious question is what's the point of measuring it?"


    Well, you can find out how party policies affect people generally, but you can't tell how people feel about party policies with a well-being scale.


    "_But that's the point, isn't it?  If the population keeps growing then the economy needs to do so as well.  I'm not suggesting that this is a viable model, nor that current economic theories are remotely adequate to address such situations, but that is the basis for using GDP."


    But if people are unhappy, and GDP rises along with population, you'll just end up with more unhappy people, but think you were doing well.


    "_But that raises the question on why this is government's business.  It seems like this could give rise to some of the worst sorts of social engineering we have yet to imagine."


    This is an interesting point.  What's the book where they give people happy pills? Brave New World. Maybe a bit extreme, and also you could argue that there's a lot of social engineering going on to the benefit of GDP, via advertising etc. I'm not sure what form social engineering to increase well-being would take, or even interventions for that matter.  I'd have to think about that, though I'm thinking more along the lines of "Let's build a greenspace together" than handing out Soma.


    "_That's always a risky correlation, because in many ways "well-being" is about gains and losses.  If someone loses wealth (or experiences a decrease in standard of living), then it may well signal a decline in well-being.  Similarly if someone gains wealth, then it may well signal an increase in well-being.  While I realize that this is a gross over-simplification, in many ways this is precisely what gives rise to the feeling of discontent among many people.  In essence there's a sense of betrayal because we were led to believe that if we followed the rules and worked hard, then we could achieve our goals.  There was never any talk about being betrayed by those that you trusted, nor that those that you worked hard for never felt a similar type of loyalty."


    True.  And then people measure well-being and go around trying to improve it, without fixing the problems that caused people's well-being to drop in the first place?  Is that what you're getting at here?


    Because then you get into what we were talking about on another post, where if the system benefits the proverbial powers that be, how do you get it changed in the first place?  

    "I've observed just during my lifetime such a radical decline in concepts such as company loyalty, then one can't help but wonder how badly you have to screw up before people rebel in the streets."


    We're starting to get a bit of that over here...



    Gerhard Adam
    Well, you can find out how party policies affect people generally, but you can't tell how people feel about party policies with a well-being scale.
    You raise a good point here, but this illustrates the concern that I have.  There is no survey that can adequately describe how people feel about a policy except an actual dialogue.  This is precisely where politics is failing because there is a prevailing sense that policy and governance can occur by polls alone.
    But if people are unhappy, and GDP rises along with population, you'll just end up with more unhappy people, but think you were doing well.
    No, you'll think that the economy is growing without being able to draw any other conclusions which is all this metric is indicating.  As I stated previously that is precisely the type of thing the government should be concerned about. 
    And then people measure well-being and go around trying to improve it, without fixing the problems that caused people's well-being to drop in the first place?  Is that what you're getting at here?
    Yes, because that is one of the things we hear from government, is that we should look at all their achievements and consider ourselves fortunate for everything that's been accomplished.  This obviously misses the point, since none of their accomplishments are relevant except to the people they affect.  So if the government passes hundreds of policy decisions that don't affect me, then the government has done nothing (from my perspective).

    Also, it's important that we ensure that government focuses on the things they can affect and not simply engage in a bunch of "feel-good" policies that are intended to win elections.
    Because then you get into what we were talking about on another post, where if the system benefits the proverbial powers that be, how do you get it changed in the first place? 
    That always occurs.  The problem is that with successful PR and propagandizing they can actually find enough members of the population that are willing to support the status quo.  This is usually done by fostering the uncertainty and fear associating with change, so that many people feel it is better to leave things alone than to try and fix them.

    Mundus vult decipi
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Well, I quite like the idea of a well-being measure, as long as it is very carefully designed to really measure well-being, whatever that might be? As you have pointed out these tests could take many forms. However I think that they should also be designed to target and measure unwell-being and the situations that make people feel psychologically unwell. The numbers of people who are unhappy and taking anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and antibiotics regularly, calling suicide lines, old and/or living alone, people who are homeless or living below the poverty line etc. should also be targeted and measured, alongside those people who are claiming to be happy and fulfilled, such as the politicians in power and the positive psychologists.

    Children at schools and students in colleges and universities should also have their say about how happy and fulfilled they are with their schooling and education as should their teachers and lecturers. People using public transport, shopping in supermarkets, leaving hospitals and doctors surgeries, the list is endless and the statistics could come back to bite the Government on the bum, especially if everyone turns out to be really dissatisfied with everything. It would also be interesting to do comparisons between countries and find out if the Australians are justified in calling the British 'whinging POMS' .
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Warren Davies
    "_However I think that they should also be designed to target and measure unwell-being and the situations that make people feel psychologically unwell. The numbers of people who are unhappy and taking anti-psychotics, anti-depressants and antibiotics regularly, calling suicide lines, old and/or living alone, people who are homeless or living below the poverty line etc. should also be targeted and measured, alongside those people who are claiming to be happy and fulfilled,"

    That's a good point - as the guy in the video says, that can really tear lives apart.  It is interesting that well-being measures as collected so far stayed relatively stable, while anti-depressant use and GDP all increased, so maybe they're all useful.


    "_It would also be interesting to do comparisons between countries and find out if the Australians are justified in calling the British 'whinging POMS' ."


    They are, but whinging makes us happy!
    Yes there are problems with measuring well being but let's first look at the problems with GDP:

    If you have a car accident the repair is part of the GDP. But there has been no production, in fact there has been lost production.

    Health is part of GDP. Most of it should be in the negative.

    Lots of like examples, where GDP does not measure production but measures wealth generation. We are confusing money with production. No doubt the bankers enjoy the confusion.

    Gerhard Adam
    There is nothing wrong with measuring GDP in that fashion, as long as it is understood that it is NOT a measure of how anything, except the economy, is doing.  People perform repairs as a means of making a living and that is just as legitimate as the person that built the car in the first place. 

    The problem is not the GDP, but when people begin to assign social values to the GDP.  Also, it is important that we recognize the role of negative incentives regarding economic growth.  Obviously it has social negative consequences to ignore driving safety simply to help increase the number of repairs that will be performed.  In that respect, the GDP can have a negative influence as an indicator of "well-being".  As I said, it is important that we not confuse the purpose and role of these metrics.

    Economics is the primary connection within a society, so it makes sense to measure it as a means of assessing how it is performing/behaving.  However, such a simple metric doesn't address the issues of how such a society should function, much less whether it is dysfunctional or not.
    We are confusing money with production.
    I'm not sure what you mean by this statement, unless you're equating production with some sort of social progress.

    Many times, negative events have created positive economic events.  Hurricane Katrina was a clear disaster, but it also provided economic opportunities for those that were engaged in the rebuilding (such as it is).  There is little question about the massive destruction that occurred during World War II, and yet it was also this situation that allowed for significant economic growth as these countries rebuilt themselves (with aid).  What we don't want is someone to rationalize that the only way to generate growth is to follow a path of destruction.  However the distinction here needs to be made regarding how society is to be managed versus the economy.  This is the part that most governments and businesses seem to miss.  In many cases, the assumption is that if there is simply unbridled economic activity that it will somehow translate into benefits for everyone.  It should be clear that this isn't always the case, and that there are two distinction activities involved here;  social management and economic management.
    Mundus vult decipi
    "However the distinction here needs to be made regarding how society is to be managed versus the economy."

    Part of my thinking Gerhard is that politicians do discern GDP as the indicator of how a society is doing. That is, as you state, that we have come to rely on GDP to tell us much that it cannot tell us. My remark regarding money and production reflects and idea I have been playing around with. That GDP should not be presented as a single figure but by population decile numbers. That way we would see if GDP does reflect "all boats rising on the same tide" or reflects an increasing concentration of wealth together with increasing rates of poverty. I don't have a problem with the "filthy rich" but I do have a problem with an economy where the "filthy rich" get richer while poverty increases. That is an unsustainable path.

    rholley
    Mother to crying child, at a seaside resort:

    “You’ve come here to enjoy yourself, and you’re going to, whether you like it or not!”
    Robert H. Olley / Quondam Physics Department / University of Reading / England
    Warren Davies
    I think there's a "castles made of sand" quip that could be made too...
    Amateur Astronomer
    Quality of Life is widely discussed in North America among the middle class and working class public. It has political potential, but has not found a voice in government. The difference in European democracies is that neglect of a political potential often results in a new party being formed to challenge the status quo. In USA it leads to stalemate of government. Central to the quality of life is the unpopular program of globalization. It relates to the loss of manufacturing jobs to third world countries for suppressing wages in the developed world. In recent years privatization and self regulation have been discredited by high unemployment and unstable financial markets. A new banking crisis is threatening the Quality of Life for ordinary people, beginning in Europe but spreading quickly. The previous crisis ended badly for everyone including the people who created the crisis. With the change of control in US Congress, the perpetrators are preparing to try again next year. The government has fewer options to combat a new crisis. This week it resorted to bringing criminal charges against 3 of the 13000 most highly suspected financial managers. Over the last week I listened to a number of public officials talking about how to manage debt and acquire new larger loans during the pending crisis. None of them said anything about equity. The Quality of Life is about equity and people who are looking for a voice in government. The UK has enough political parties to know when it has to address a public concern.
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    The Quality of Life is about equity and people who are looking for a voice in government.
    I totally agree Jerry. Many of the people in the world, who are toiling often for very low wages and in poor work conditions, to make the goods we buy so cheaply and which have taken away many of our own jobs, have neither of these at present. The Nobel Peace Laureate Prize Winner Liu Xiaobo is in prison in China for apparently just asking for press freedom. These people also need support to help give them a voice and quality of life. See http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOGQdYWl_zQ
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Warren Davies
    Helen,
    I saw this TED talk recently on similar lines...

    http://www.ted.com/talks/view/id/1005
    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Thanks for the link Warren. For some reason i couldn't get it to play it said 'Unable to play the video specified: null:null//streaming.ted.com/null' does anyone else have a problem? Anyway I read the transcript and its brilliant, he points out the terrible inequities and exploitation of children and people in what is really slave labor to produce so many of the goods that we buy and he proposes some good solutions to the problem, but these might be harder to implement in the short term than labels rating work conditions and global environmental impact as I've suggested below.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Warren Davies
    "_Central to the quality of life is the unpopular program of globalization. It relates to the loss of manufacturing jobs to third world countries for suppressing wages in the developed world. In recent years privatization and self regulation have been discredited by high unemployment and unstable financial markets."

    I'm reading a (US centred) book about his at the moment, Supercapitalism.  Talks about this, plus fund managers and high street retailers pressuring suppliers for cheaper labour, which we abhor, but still shop for the cheapest prices, meaning big companies are unable to pay for more expensive labour at home because they are unable to raise prices to pay for it!  Pretty crazy.  Sometimes I think I should just buy a tent and a Ray Mears book and run off to the mountains.


    "_With the change of control in US Congress, the perpetrators are preparing to try again next year. "


    Try again?




    Bonny Bonobo alias Brat
    Warren, I watched my favorite program Man vs Wild last night, where Bear Gryllis did exactly that, well without the Ray Mears book. It was pretty challenging for him just surviving the night on the mountain though. After a few weeks of those conditions I would probably work 12 hours for a tin of baked beans! Beats biting off the heads of snakes and eating termites, or maybe I'd get used to it and even enjoy it?

    Anyway, I think we need to be very happy that we do live in a democracy with hard fought for human rights and working conditions, and maybe the answer is to have a law to simply require that all goods in shops and online are labeled with a scale which reflects from 1 to 10 the working conditions of the people who made them. This might have a very positive effect upon many people's egalitarian rights and quality of life in the short and long term throughout the world. The label could also have another scale on the back rating the global environmental impact of the production process.

    Some consumers still won't care about these scales or won't be able to afford the more expensive items but at least those that can make a difference would be better informed to do so.
    My article about researchers identifying a potential blue green algae cause & L-Serine treatment for Lou Gehrig's ALS, MND, Parkinsons & Alzheimers is at http://www.science20.com/forums/medicine
    Gerhard Adam
    Helen;

    Not to pick on you, or Bear Grylls, but I think this is a serious point of confusion in dealing with wilderness.  It's important to remember that Bear Grylls is demonstrating how to "survive" a temporary situation with the clear objective of returning to "civilization".  However, Bear Grylls is not dealing with how to live in such environments, which is something that many native peoples have done successfully and quite comfortably for millennia.

    The reason I'm raising this point is that many of the people that are living in poverty are doing so because of having their normal lifestyles destroyed by "civilization" (such as some of the rainforest tribes).  Similarly, poverty doesn't actually mean much unless it is placed into the context of consumerism.

    So in  many cases, we've got a situation of where a significant economic force comes into an area and changes the dynamic of how people can survive.  Hunting is not an option if there are no hunting grounds available.  Growing crops is not an option if one is required to join the economic environment that requires land ownership.  Invariably all the rules shift so that the only way to "survive" is to comply with the economic powers that have dictated the terms by which people shall live.
    ...maybe the answer is to have a law to simply require that all goods in shops and online are labeled with a scale which reflects from 1 to 10 the working conditions of the people who made them.
    While I can appreciate the idea, I'm not convinced it would mean anything.  This is a problem that originates with our basic economic theories and the bias that has evolved towards corporations (and their crew of investors).  Somewhere the basic market concept got perverted to where people felt that simply having money was a sufficient reason to manipulate the system to produce more money.  Nothing had to be produced, it was money producing money.  As a result, the system shifted from the production of goods/services to the arbitrary increases in stock value growth.  In other words, only the returns to the investor mattered.  It didn't matter if the quarterly returns were produced by poor long-term decisions, but only that each quarter produced artificial "earnings" to satisfy investors.

    As a result, we've graduated to the quest for ever cheaper goods and consequently labor, because we refuse to let the market correct itself to reflect the true values for the products we want.  So in an effort to maintain such investor growth, we blame it on the consumers wanting cheap goods.  In reality, the cause is that consumers must become more debt-ridden to sustain the corporate profits, because without "growth" then the investors can't be satisfied.  Consequently, we must incur greater levels of exploitation to maintain this artificial state.  It should be clear that the markets are far too unbalanced to be considered realistic reflections of goods and services anymore, so it has become a mad race to the bottom (regarding the cost/standard of living).  Workers are being forced to compete with poverty to get jobs that pay less for less security.

    In my view, the only way out of this is with one simple regulation.  All companies must pay salaries/benefits commensurate with the nation in which they are headquartered.  It seems that this could do much to correct the situation.  After all, corporations whine about how consumers aren't willing to pay higher prices for goods, but what goods are we talking about?  iPods?  DVD's?  If the prices go up, there's no need to worry, since the market will adjust.  However, by keeping these prices artificially low, then the corporations can induce a demand which is little more than the exploitation of slave labor in producing such goods.
    Mundus vult decipi