Auchter's Art: Redefining economic success | Michigan Radio
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Auchter's Art: Redefining economic success

Jan 24, 2020

To be sure, there are some people who are perfectly happy working in the gig economy. Lyft drivers who appreciate the flexible hours and social engagement. Shipt pickers who enjoy the challenge of filling grocery orders for other people. 

But, after seeing an article in the Detroit Free Press, "Delta Air Lines, UAW workers to get big bonuses in February," I could imagine some level of envy. And not just about the money, but the steadiness, the predictability, and the benefits that come with those jobs. I mean, at some point it seems a side-hustle needs be a side-hustle and a life-sustaining job needs to be a life-sustaining job.

Another article, this one from Time magazine, sparked related thoughts. It's titled "It's Time to Redefine GDP to Help Save the Planet," which sounds rather aggressive, but actually is not so radical. The idea is that measuring the success of our economy in terms of growth, which is what Gross Domestic Product does, is archaic. As the article says:

"Since the 1930s that is how we have measured the output of our national economies. GDP came into being in the manufacturing age, and more than anything it is a measure of physical production. It is poor at counting more ethereal things like services, from insurance and train journeys to music streaming and restaurant food, where value is more related to quality than quantity. This is quite a flaw in advanced economies like the U.S.’s, in which services make up roughly 80% of economic activity."

So if economic success is redefined to include quality of life measurements (more leisure time, cleaner air, lower crime, healthier lives) instead of just growth for growth's sake, it's plausible that quality of life would become a higher priority. Of course that leaves lots of questions to be answered, but at the very least it sounds way more cordial than grinding endlessly toward unsustainable growth or a Marxist revolution, right?

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John Auchter is a freelance political cartoonist. His views are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management, or its license holder, the University of Michigan.

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