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How Money Became the Measure of Everything

theatlantic.com

A shift in measuring well-being

People in societies such as ancient Greece, imperial China, Medieval Europe, and colonial America did not measure people's well-being in terms of monetary earnings or economic output.

In the mid- 19th century, the United States and other industrializing nations such as England and Germ...

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The turn toward financial statistics means that instead of considering how economic developments could meet our needs, it instead is to determine whether individuals are meeting the demand of the economy.

Until the 1850s, social measurement in 19th-century America was a co...

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What led to the pricing of progress in the mid-19th century was capitalism.

Capitalism is not just the existence of markets. It is also capitalised investment, where elements of society and life - including natural resources, technological discoveries, works of art, urban spaces, educa...

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Capitalization was key to the rise of economic indicators. Upper-class Americans began to put their wealth into new financial assets. They began to see their society as a capitalized investment and the people as capital that could be used to increase wealth.

In the North, ...

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By the progressive era (1890s to the 1920s), a child was valued as a potential wealth-producer. "If he lived out the normal term of years, he can produce $2900 more wealth than it costs to rear and maintain him," The New York Times stated in 1910. The annual social cost of everything was...

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  • The working-class Americans at the beginning of the 20th century were not as eager about the rise of economic indicators because they believed the human experience to be "priceless." They also viewed the figures as tools to be used to justify increased production quotas, mo...

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The conditions for economic growth were regularly put before the necessary conditions for individuals' well-being.

In 1911, an efficiency expert bluntly stated: "In the past the man has been first; in the future the system must be first." While capital accumulation is syno...

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