The flaw of GDP


Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfactionpurpose and dignity – that afflicts us all.  Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over {$17 trillion} dollars a year, but that Gross National Product – if we judge the United States of America by that – that Gross National Product 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 the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  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.

Robert “Bobby” Kennedy, University of Kansas, 1968

1 comment

  • This is an excerpt from a speech RFK gave as part of his campaign for President of the United States in 1968. That campaign season saw riots in the streets of Chicago before and during the Democratic Convention, two months after RFK was assassinated.

    This was all a year before I was born, and thus I can’t truly compare the 1968 campaign with 2016. Both seem outliers, in very different ways.

    What I can compare is the statesmanship, vision, and sheer poetry of RFKs writings vs. any candidate in the following 48 years. I read the above excerpt, and I wonder if we’ll see another thinker like that run for POTUS in my lifetime.

    People look at me funny when I say it, but my favorite POTUS in the last 100 years is RFK. If only he had a chance to prove me right…

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