Like a single organism

16. Dezember 2020

This is based on my quick­ly sket­ched down notes on an inter­view with Enri­co Gio­van­ni­ni given at this years Forum Alp­bach. Which means, dou­ble check all of it, this is fil­te­red through me, and then my lou­sy note taking. 🙂

GDP was ‘inven­ted’ as an eco­no­mic indi­ca­tor at Bret­ton Woods 1944 fol­lowing a deba­te of main­ly two eco­no­mic schools, one of which repre­sen­ted by Simon Kuz­nets basi­cal­ly lost out. (Kuz­nets wasnt invi­ted back, star­ting from day two).

What pre­vai­led was the bri­tish solu­ti­on of going with an indi­ca­tor based on pro­duc­tion. This was important to US inte­rests at the time, becau­se that would favor the capi­ta­list eco­no­mic model over the com­mu­nist model more­so than Kuz­nets approach of having an indi­ca­tor based on con­sump­ti­on and well being.

For this one source is cited, name­ly: click

Addi­tio­nal quick sources pul­led up via google:
Source 1
Source 2

Why is GDP so important? Rough­ly: Becau­se it is a num­ber ’seen as important’ that is tracked/stated qui­te fre­quent­ly. So other indi­ca­tors, that may­be are rene­wed once a year get a back­se­at posi­ti­on to GDP at the poli­cy making stage.

Why may GDP cur­r­ent­ly be ‘unwan­ted’ as a mea­su­re of deve­lo­p­ment? Main­ly: Becau­se it doesnt inclu­de envi­ron­men­tal action, and becau­se it “regis­ters it as some­thing eco­no­mi­c­al­ly posi­ti­ve, if you buy a com­pu­ter, but some­thing nega­ti­ve (expen­se) if you hire a bunch of peop­le” - this is rough­ly an ana­lo­gy for, it doesnt repre­sent a lar­ge part of eco­no­mic acti­vi­ty that is pro­jec­ted to grow in the future - name­ly the ser­vice sector.

Why is GDP so hard to get rid of? Becau­se it has a ‘good’ ‘enough’ cor­re­la­ti­on to job crea­ti­on. So in times of eco­no­mic cri­sis, ever­yo­ne is prio­ri­ti­zing get­ting GDP up again so more jobs are crea­ted. The­re were efforts in the past, but they all kind of pete­red out as soon as the next eco­no­mic cri­sis came along.

And now for the tech­no­cra­tic visi­on of future government (we are still tal­king about Enri­co Gio­van­ni­ni mind you.. 😉 ). So here is what you do. 🙂

You DONT crea­te one repla­ce­ment num­ber like Gross Natio­nal Hap­pi­ness, becau­se that one espe­cial­ly only reflects on ‘cur­rent per­cei­ved sta­te’ and is useless when it comes down to poli­cy plan­ning or projecting.

You can invent a who­le list of eco­no­mic indi­ca­tors, nor­ma­li­ze them, make sure that they are con­nec­ted in a “com­mu­ni­ca­ting ves­sels” fashion (whe­re one of them can snuff out chan­ges in ano­t­her one, if its impact is big­ger). Issue: That might snuff out cer­tain indi­ca­tors that might be important from a dif­fe­rent van­ta­ge point. So you dont just crea­te the one sin­gle num­ber indi­ca­tor model - you crea­te several ones of tho­se (several groups of indi­ca­tors (still fol­lowing the com­mu­ni­ca­ting ves­sels con­cept wit­hin a group).

Next, indi­ca­tors alo­ne are not enough. You need models that say what will hap­pen, when you input indi­ca­tor values. This is whe­re you look at sci­ence to deli­ver, respec­tively - or to look at it the other way around, to get sci­ence inte­gra­ted into the sys­tem as well - becau­se don’t for­get, we are sket­ching out the crea­ti­on of an alter­na­ti­ve to the Bret­ton Woods sys­tem here.

And then you make sure you imple­ment it in a way that dic­ta­tes to future governments in a coun­try - not necessa­ri­ly ‘what to do’ but what indi­ca­tor values to reach. You do that by drawing up poli­cy that requi­res them to run their eco­no­mic and social plans against your indi­ca­tors and models - with a requi­red out­co­me, befo­re they are ‘allo­wed’ to govern.

So once sci­en­tists are hap­py and you crea­ted the new gover­nan­ce dog­ma, whats left?

At that point you come to the striking con­clu­si­on, that you cant model social sys­tems. Or at least that social sys­tems are very hard to model - which you still try (see: click ) with the quo­te from the inter­view that sum­ma­ri­zes all this being “we cant pre­dict revo­lu­ti­ons”. But you can still try - which is basi­cal­ly whe­re PR should come in. (Make sure peop­le are enga­ged in NGO acti­vi­ties give them ‘owners­hip’ over issues, …)

Part of this was alrea­dy inte­gra­ted in ita­ly (government has to adhe­re to indi­ca­tors of eco­no­mi­c­al and eco­lo­gi­cal well­being) on a natio­nal level (tech­no­cra­tic expe­ri­ment 😉 ), part of it Gio­van­ni­ni sees com­ing into action with this EU government making it man­da­to­ry to report adhe­rence to indi­ca­tors found in the SDGs (sus­tainab­le deve­lo­p­ment goals), so revi­sing the stra­te­gy for man­da­to­ry non finan­cial repor­ting. This fol­lows less of a (strict) con­cep­tu­al model, but should pro­du­ce simi­lar results. (Sor­ry for being so vague here, my notes got thin… 😉 ).

Tho­se ide­as still dont have a poli­ti­cal majo­ri­ty (not the domi­na­ting view) - so, is that a dealbreaker?

No, becau­se lar­ge finan­cial funds and pri­va­te funds have deci­ded to use indi­ca­tors of sus­taina­bi­li­ty to asses long­term via­bi­li­ty of com­pa­nies (their long term capa­ci­ties) and this pro­du­ces inter­nal pres­su­res wit­hin the capi­ta­list system.

Black­rock for examp­le (so Gio­van­ni­ni) has recent­ly publis­hed a list of com­pa­nies whe­re they are on the board and whe­re they voted against bonu­ses for mana­gers who ‘had­n’t done enough for sustainability’.

On imple­men­ta­ti­on the major pro­blems the initia­ti­ves are facing are poli­ti­cal - so what does Gio­van­ni­ni pro­po­se? First, pro­du­ce poli­ti­cal move­ments with the aim to dri­ve noti­ons of ’sus­taina­bi­li­ty’ into coun­tries con­sti­tu­ti­ons. (So whenever you hear this, this is more than nai­ve bab­b­le. This is seen as an ave­nue to stop the pro­fit maxi­miz­a­ti­on man­tra in small and medi­um enter­pri­ses.) Second, for­ce more dis­cus­sions about several of tho­se indi­ca­tors (eco­no­mic ine­qua­li­ty, health, crime, ine­qua­li­ty bet­ween gen­ders, …) at the public level. Then fol­low up with an imple­men­ta­ti­on like with man­da­to­ry repor­ting on SDGs on the EU level.

First you can do this on the natio­nal level, but all future frame­works are aiming for a shared view inter­na­tio­nal­ly. (In my notes I’ve noted down OECD 2011 bet­ter life index, life initia­ti­ve, next to it but I havent loo­ked that up yet). Anec­do­tal­ly Gio­van­ni­ni sta­tes, that the­re are encou­ra­ging results on meta stu­dies on several of tho­se indi­ca­tors, that they arent ‘cul­tu­ral­ly dri­ven’ - so that you could basi­cal­ly make that work for a lar­ge group of peop­le, fol­lowing the same model.

To make that work you need to invest in the deve­lo­p­ment of ’sta­tis­ti­cal means’ in a lar­ge num­ber of coun­tries, but appar­ent­ly this is alrea­dy part of the 2030 SDGs agenda.

Also, so Gio­van­ni­ni, it is very encou­ra­ging, that you can gather much of the data nee­ded for indi­ca­tors through ‘crowd sourcing models’, which are cheap, and hey - you have a form of public par­ti­ci­pa­ti­on atta­ched to it as well.

This should be it, sideno­tes I have left are:
To look up: Alan Kru­ger, Oba­mas GDP speech, the 2009 Stigliz report (to what insti­tu­ti­on if havent noted down).
That a live model of several com­plex indi­ca­tors in action can be found some­whe­re on a ASVIS/Gruppo API website.
Istan­bul world forum (indi­vi­du­al visi­ons) [wha­te­ver that means.. 😉 ]
The report on sus­tainab­le equa­li­ty for the social demo­cra­te fraction/group in the EP (euro­pean parliament)
And to look up the Sus­tainab­le Solution(s) network

End of info dump. 😉


Emma­nu­el Macron wants cli­ma­te goals in French constitution 

A refe­ren­dum could for­ce a chan­ge in the French con­sti­tu­ti­on to add pled­ges to com­bat cli­ma­te chan­ge. Pre­si­dent Macron has come under fire for a per­cei­ved lack of effort to pro­tect the environment.

src: click

Like a sin­gle orga­nism. Whats a con­sti­tu­ti­on here and there…

edit: Equi­va­lent for Aus­tria (ger­man): click

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