Our current systems of measurements focus on growth at the expense of all else. We must focus on creating measures that tell us how we are doing in terms of building a sustainable world for everyone. When businesses file environmental impact statements that promise that their plans will not hurt the community, this must be measured after the fact. And they must be held accountable if they were wrong.
The corporate market system is based on a competitive struggle to exploit people and nature for profit. Such measurements as the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) perpetuate the idea that the economy should be measured by, and hence focused on, growth and output. But there are many perspectives from which to measure the economy and not all of them focus on profit. One way to measure the economy is to asses the value of non-monetary goods and services and to measure the rate of infant mortality, life expectancy of people, educational opportunities offered by the state, family stability, environmental data and health care for all people. Another is to quantify what human benefit (in terms of education, health care, elder care, etc.) is being provided for each unit of output. Measuring the gap between the most fortunate and the least fortunate in our society, for example, tells us how well or poorly we are doing in creating an economy that does not benefit some at the expense of others.
Still another useful measurement would tell us what additional costs, external to the direct production process, are incurred to achieve the production of goods and services. These external costs are borne by local communities and society as a whole. For example, the nation's largest oil spill (the Exxon Valdez in Prince William Sound) was a boon to Alaska's overall GDP, but the spill's cost to the environment, and to the many people affected, was too high a price to pay.
In a local example of external costs, incidents of toxic leaks at refineries in Richmond, California have had significant detrimental impact on the short term cost of health care in Richmond and the long term health status of the community. This is reflected as short term costs to the community in the form of lost days of work and school.
The Green Party will work for a more just economic measurement system:
Devise economic monitoring systems that measure a business's total costs to the environment and society.
Some of these costs can not be expressed in monetary terms, but various accounting techniques are being developed to represent such costs. We support these efforts and will encourage their implementation to augment or replace the GDP. [see Creating the Right Incentives plank]
Account for not only environmental costs, but also social costs such as substandard wages and working conditions.
Classify activities such as volunteerism, domestic work and child rearing as contributions to the economy.
Require businesses and government agencies to determine what social and environmental effects their activities are having, and to make that information public. The assumptions made in these reports should be backed by money put in escrow in case they prove to be inaccurate.
To respect and encourage diverse viewpoints about our economy, California should experiment with measures to discover which ones have meaning to people in terms of representing their view of the value of the economy. For example, if we divide the amount of money spent on public education in a 12-year period by the number of high school graduates from public high schools at the end of that same time period, have we created a meaningful measure? The answer can only be found if we create a climate where discussion and understanding of economic measures become relevant to the general public. The Dow Jones Industrial Average and the NASDAQ Composite Index have both regularly become front page news items. This proves that even abstract measurements of economic activity can become matters of public interest given the proper development and media exposure.