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 Germany moved away from this historical pattern. They started to measure progress in monetary value and social welfare based on the ability to create income.

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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 collection of social indicators known as "moral statistics," which focused on the physical, social, spiritual, and mental conditions of the people. Human beings were at the center, not dollars and cents.

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, educational institutions, and people - are changed or "capitalised" into income-generating assets that are valued by their ability to make money and yield future returns.

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, such investments took the form of urban real estate and companies that were building railroads. Investors were putting money in communities they had no other interest in. A national business class emerged that cared less about moral statistics than about the town's industrial output, population growth, real-estate prices, labor costs, and per-capita productivity. In the South, enslaved people became pieces of capital that could be mortgaged, rented, insured, and sold.

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 measured: The common cold ($21 a month per employee), housewife labor ($7.5 billion), the yearly social benefit of Niagara Falls ($122.5 million), government health insurance ($3 billion).

This way of thinking is still used in reports from the government, research organizations, and the media: The annual cost of excessive alcohol consumption ($223.5 billion) and mental disorders ($467 billion).

  • 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, more control over workers, or reduced wages.
  • Using prices to measure daily life was then highly contested. Some labor unions and Populist farmers succeeded in pushing state bureaus of labor statistics to offer up a series of alternative metrics that instead measured urban poverty, gender discrimination, leisure time, indebtedness, discrimination, rent-seeking behavior, and exploitation of workers.
  • But the interests of businessmen reigned, and by the mid-20th century, economic indicators focused on monetary output.

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 synonymous with progress, human well-being is now a secondary concern.

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SIMILAR ARTICLES

  • In his first book, "The Theory of Moral Sentiments", Smith proposed the idea of an invisible hand - the tendency of free markets to regulate themselves through competition, supply and demand, and self-interest.
  • He is known for creating the gross domestic product (GDP) concept and his theory of compensating wage differentials.
  • In 1776, Smith published "An inquiry into the nature and causes of the wealth of nations" shortened to "The wealth of nations."
  • In "The Wealth of Nations", Smith popularised many ideas that form the basis for classical economics.

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IDEAS

  • Hangzhou has been an important city since the 7th century CE, when its Grand Canal was built to connect the urban centre to Beijing. It is the world's longest artificial river.
  • Woodblock printing developed in Buddhist monasteries to reproduce spiritual texts. During the Song era, it was widely adopted for non-religious purposes and supercharged intellectual life in the Song dynasty.
  • Hangzhou was a place of great creativity. In the 11th century CE, polymath Shen Kuo (1031 - 1095 CE) invented the magnetic compass, drew the world's first topographical map, and recorded the process of sedimentation.
  • Other technological breakthroughs includes the compass, the first mechanical clocks, and the invention of forensic science.
  • The economic and technological advancements of the Song era translated into improving living conditions for the average person.
The United Kingdom And The Great Depression

Already struggling with four years of war, Britain was trying to recover when the crash occurred, and reeled in it for a decade, only to participate in another expensive and deadly World War: WW II.

The Great Depression was mostly felt by the North of England as well as the industrial centres across Britain, resulting in protests from the part of shipbuilders and different industrial workers. The recovery began only by the end of the decade, pretty late, if we are to take into consideration that another world war was to break out.

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