We need better indicators for measuring how we live.

Ross Gittins (Finding better indicators to read the health of the economy, SMH, October 11, 2014) writes that simply relying on the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) means we get a skewed and incomplete picture of all the transactions that take place in the running of the country.

The GDP is inadequate because the balance sheet is lopsided – it doesn’t have a debit side.  All transactions are considered credits regardless of how they came about. For example: take the case of two drivers crashing their cars: the tow truck business, the crash repair business, the insurance assessors along with the insurance premiums, the attending ambulance (in the case of injuries or death), or perhaps a rescue helicopter, the police investigation unit, the hospital emergency department, the treating doctors and nurses, the pharmaceutical prescriptions and in the case of death, the resulting funeral, are all considered good for the economy. It could be concluded that the more road trauma the better – jobs are created and products are sold that would not normally have been the case had there been no crash.

But this begs the question as to how many debits counted as credits, that are supposedly good for the economy, are good for the society? – especially when those who might be left with terrible injuries are ‘asked’ to suffer the consequences. There is no economy without a society, and quite frankly no society without an ecology.

Over the years we have come to the conclusion that in spite of the revenue and jobs associated with the tobacco industry, smoking cigarettes is not good for your health. We are collectively better off without this addictive product that has so many detrimental side effects – right down to passive smoking.

The medicalisation of our end-of-life phase and the commodification of death and disposal while good for the economy, are not so good for society and the ecology.

A number of studies are questioning for how much longer we can sustain the spiraling costs associated with dying and death. Reports are coming in from the UK, US and Australia about the prohibitive costs of keeping terminally ill patients with no prospect of recovery hooked up to life support machines. And following death, the rising costs charged to cremate or bury their deceased loved ones, let alone the prices charged for memorials.

Organizations like the US based Funeral Consumers Association (FCA) and the UK based Natural Death Centre (NDC) urge caution on the part of grieving families.

Be prepared with written quotes from at least three (3) funeral providers. Check if the provider is a small family concern or the shop front for a large corporate operator. Consider doing some or all of the funeral arranging.  There is no law stating that we have to hire a professional to conduct a funeral event.

The indicators to measure if we are getting value for money need to be transparent for all to see. It is about what we are counting – what we include and what we exclude.

Visit the sites listed in the Die-alogue Café links and keep an eye on the posts and resources. When an opportunity comes up to improve your death literacy, grab it. 2015 promises to be a good year for growing our knowledge tree.

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1 Response to We need better indicators for measuring how we live.

  1. Helen Dunne says:

    Thank you for this post, a good reminder of all that goes on in life, especially on how the media reports and distorts the supposed ‘good news’.

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