Thursday, May 26, 2011

Something to play with

What do you think is important in a country? Its a serious question, and the answer can have serious policy consequences.

For example, our political class thinks economic growth is important. For the past three decades they have been obsessed with shifts in NZ's OECD economic ranking. This monomania gave us Rogernomics, Ruthanasia, and the whole NeoLiberal obsession with cutting taxes for the rich while giving them state assets for a song - policies with seriously unpleasant social consequences. But those consequences weren't reflected in the indicator they were measuring success by - economic performance - and so they did not matter to them (plus of course, those politicians were rich, and did not suffer with the rest of us).

The OECD, however, recognises that its not so simple. So they've created the Better Life Initiative - a tool which allows you to rank countries based on your priorities. Think that income is all that matters? New Zealand is in the middle of the pack. Think its more about quality of life, a mix of environment, life-satisfaction, and community? New Zealand is a lot closer to the top. Its a useful illustration that New Zealand doesn't suck as much as the NeoLiberals claim it does - we do very well on non-economic metrics, metrics that matter a lot to people - and that we can pursue other goals beyond the endless mantra spewed by the business community and their pet politicians of growth, growth, growth.

Take a look at it. Have a play. Decide what you think is important. Then let the politicians know. Because unless we take that last step - through the ballot box, if need be - then our politicians will continue pursuing growth uber alles, and sacrifice other values (which they are blind to) to achieve it.