Political Analysis, Social Justice, Social-ecological transformation
GDP and The Wellbeing Economy: For the wellbeing of everyone we need to challenge capitalism.
In 2018, Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand - currently with female-led governments - initiated the group of the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo). This coalition seeks to transform the current capitalist economy into a wellbeing economy, where human and ecological wellbeing is prioritized. According to Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish government head and leader of the progressive social-democratic Scottish National Party (SNP), the decade-long fixation on the GDP has produced far more losers than winners. Especially in the fight against climate change, the obsession with GDP growth fails to satisfy human needs and cannot guarantee ecological sustainability. For Sturgeon: “Growth in GDP should not be pursued at any cost and all cost… The goal of economic policy should be collective well-being: how happy and healthy a population is; not just how wealthy a population is.” Instead, the main indicators of a functioning well-being economy measure the overall life quality of its population - such as wage equality, access to green space and affordability of living.
The first steps have already been taken. Iceland, for instance, has passed progressive laws to tackle wage inequality between women and men. In 2019, New Zealand passed its first wellbeing budget with an emphasis on the mental health of its population as well as the fight against child poverty. As Katherine Trebeck, Knowledge and Policy Lead at the Wellbeing Economy Alliance, highlights, the Scottish government has started to introduce re-distributional policies toward collective ownership of key industries and assets. Furthermore, the Scottish government agency Cooperative Development promotes collective succession models and supports family businesses in transitioning ownership to workers. Ranging from community-owned pubs to community-owned harbors, these are feasible and illustrative alternatives to an extractive capitalist economy. The supporters of a well-being economy, alike many people all over the world, seek for alternatives to capitalism. Instead of simply pursuing GDP growth, they are exploring and opening up new ways of collective ownership to engage with nature and society.
Although the Wellbeing Economy Governments (WEGo) has been formed only recently by states situated within the Global North, the idea of collective ownership is not a novelty and has been globally at the heart of socialist policies ever since. If governments truly want to establish a well-being economy on a global scale, then not only new paradigms need to be established, but also past attainments need to be defended against profit-interests. The conclusion then is as follows: As long as public goods are treated as commodities and their services are not publicly-owned but privately-owned, well-being for the many cannot be fully realized. An economy, where needs are put before profits, is incompatible with global capitalism. In contrast, within socialism, the provision of goods is not based on profits but exists for the well-being of everyone. Then, commodities and services do not simply exist for realizing profits, but for the use of people. Wage labor would be replaced by work that is useful to society and meets people’s needs. To tackle the challenges of our time, with climate change as the most urgent one, an alternative to capitalism is urgently needed. A socialist economy can pave a way out.
Author: Dang My Linh
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Hashtags: #WellbeingEconomy #GDP #SNP #WEGo