Monday, January 29, 2018

Inclusive Development Index vs. Trump Measure

Sen Robert F. Kennedy
A few days ago, President Trump spoke before the World Economic Forum (WEF). His speech was tailored toward stimulating corporate activity in the United States and convincing corporations, world-wide, to bring their investments to the U.S.

For me, it is significant that he decided to deliver that message before an organization with the mission that states:

“We believe that progress happens by bringing together people from all walks of life who have the drive and the influence to make positive change.”

I believe Mr. Trump, a world-class division maker, missed the point of the WEF. He actually presented the wrong message to the attendees and also missed a golden opportunity to, “Make America Great Again.”

Of course, Mr. Trump’s Great America is significantly different than the WEF’s view of a Great America.

WEF is founded upon the idea that what passes for the main measure of progress in our capitalistic society, the Gross National Product (GNP) or Gross Domestic Product (GDP), is hopelessly flawed.

WEF believes that their Inclusive Development Index (IDI) is a better measuring stick because it uses three pillars as measures: growth and development; inclusion and; intergenerational equity – sustainable stewardship of natural and financial resources.

It’s obvious that President Trump measures success by an entirely different, if not totally anachronistic, braggadocios tool, while the rest of the world has moved on with a new, real world standard of measure.

Thinking about that “new” standard rang a bell for me. You might remember back 50 years to 1968. Before he was murdered, Robert F. Kennedy gave a speech at the University of Kansas (18 March 1968). It was a life-affirming speech about a better America and a measure of what "makes life worthwhile".

RFK said, “…we can do better in this country.” 

He said: “…the fact is, that men have lost confidence in themselves, in each other, it is confidence which has sustained us so much in the past - rather than answer the cries of deprivation and despair - cries which the President's Commission on Civil Disorders tells us could split our nation finally asunder - rather than answer these desperate cries, hundreds of communities and millions of citizens are looking for their answers, to force and repression and private gun stocks - so that we confront our fellow citizen across impossible barriers of hostility and mistrust and again, I don't believe that we have to accept that. I don't believe that it's necessary in the United States of America.  I think that we can work together - I don't think that we have to shoot at each other, to beat each other, to curse each other and criticize each other, I think that we can do better in this country.  And that is why I run for President of the United States.“

RFK went on to explain what GNP measures (what Mr. Trump’s measuring stick measures):

“And this is one of the great tasks of leadership for us, as individuals and citizens this year.  But even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task, it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction - purpose and dignity - that afflicts us all.  Too much and for too long, we seemed to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things.  Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion dollars a year, but that Gross National Product - if we judge the United States of America by that - that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.  It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them.  It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.  It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities.  It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.  Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play.  It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.  It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country, it measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.  And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.”

Mr. Trump ended his WEF remarks with:

"... So together let us resolve to use our power, our resources, and our voices not just for ourselves but for our people, to lift their burdens, to raise their hopes and empower their dreams, to protect their families, their communities, their histories and their futures. That's what we're doing in America and the results are totally unmistakable."

One can only hope Mr. Trump actually understood the words he repeated and that they were not just more words strung together to be denied later as "fake news".

Robert F. Kennedy challenges Gross Domestic Product - Excerpt -
University of Kansas Address - 18 Mar 1968

Please go here to hear Robert F. Kennedy's entire University of Kansas Address

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