What a Wellbeing Economy Looks Like

Tentative and not fully-formed, but the First Minister here outlines what a wellbeing economy would look like as we stagger towards the enormity of climate crisis and the brutal reality that it is us, and our economic system that is the problem.

Last month Kenny Farquharson wrote an opinion piece in The Times about the work of my colleagues and friends in the Degrowth Commission and Enough! collective, a brand new climate think-tank. He wrote:

“I am a big fan of dreamers. They test our definitions of what is possible. They hear the words “unrealistic” and “impractical” and respond with “why?” At present, the ideas of the Degrowth Commission are on the fringes of political debate, but that will change.”

As mainstream politics descends into farce and the ecological crisis focuses formerly closed minds, it seems the transfer of ideas from the margins to the centre is accelerating.

The notion of stopping deifying economic “growth” and the idea of using a different set of metrics for measuring “success” than GDP is not new. But hearing it articulated from the mouths of our elected leaders is.

From the intro:

“In 2018, Scotland, Iceland and New Zealand established the network of Wellbeing Economy Governments to challenge the acceptance of GDP as the ultimate measure of a country’s success. In this visionary talk, First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon explains the far-reaching implications of a “well-being economy” – which places factors like equal pay, childcare, mental health and access to green space at its heart – and shows how this new focus could help build resolve to confront global challenges.”

Comments (9)

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  1. Gerd Moritz says:

    It is refreshing to hear these thoughts from a politician. Unfortunately this type of thinking is not nearly well enough appreciated nor widespread, I suspect, because it will lead to no inordinate advantage to any single person or group of people espousing it. She is, however, right, we do owe it to coming generations to arrest the current slide into ever more egocentric political processes currently gripping much of the “developed” world. I also suspect, even though male, that the female leadership of the three entities supporting this “wellbeing economy” model is an important predictor.

  2. Jenny Tizard says:

    Yes. It’s all good stuff. And maybe when the racism, nationalism, arrogance and ignorance of the UK and US governments have you up against the wall it’s easier to see what is really important.

  3. Douglas says:

    Our First Minister certainly knows how to talk the talk, if only she would walk the walk….

    How does this talk square with the SNP commissioned Growth Report which is basically a New Labour vision of reality and was led by Andrew Wilson of Charlotte Street Partners, a Fellow of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the David Hume Institute and the Chartered Institute of Bankers ? Which is to say, a neo-liberal…

    I can’t help but see the SNP spin machine at work here – directly copied from New Labour – from a government which has failed to be bold and honour its pledge to abolish the community charge, undertake radical land reform and refuses even to question the glaring injustice of the monarchy in a country where children are going to school undernourished and without warm clothes in winter…

    And, as always with so many prominent SNP people, this by now frankly embarrassing bragging and boasting about Scotland…. Scotland leading the world etc…from within the Union presumably if it’s Adam Smith we’re talking?…..It’s just another expression of the Cringe…

    As for TED talks, the medium is the message, right? They look cool, the look sexy, the audience are enthusiastic etc, but basically with the right speaker, they can sell you any idea under the sun… I can almost imagine Tony Blair doing a TED talk on why we need to bomb Iraq for example…

    TED talks are a kind of entertainment, more than anything else…

    1. It certainly is riddled with contradictions, maybe I’m being too positive, but it might be the start of an engagement or a journey

      1. Douglas says:

        Yeah, well, Bella, with the Edinburgh Festival upon us, it is that time of year when performers, actors and other live artists take to the boards and mesmerize the crowds with their flights of fancy, powers of invention and dazzling theatrical skills…

        It’s good to see the First Minister – oor Nicola – setting the pace with such a fine, Oscar winning performance….

        Unfortunately, as we who follow Scottish politics know all too well, the SNP do not have the chops to radically change Scotland in the areas where they could do so: community charge, land reform, culture, language (Scots and Gaelic), and education… why not? I’d like to hear a talk about that.

        PS: I heard a rumour Priti Patel is to do a TED talk about bringing back public flogging or maybe it was hanging?…Wwhoever invented TED talks is a marketing genius… but like IKEA furniture, it’s all about style and very little about substance…this is a great example: tThe FM saying one thing on a TED talk, doing another in reality…

        1. David Allan says:

          “Unfortunately, as we who follow Scottish politics know all too well, the SNP do not have the chops to radically change Scotland in the areas where they could do so: community charge, land reform, culture, language (Scots and Gaelic), and education… why not? I’d like to hear a talk about that”.

          Hi Douglas , I never in 2014 thought I’d say this – We need Independence soon to save us from further SNP devolved government mediocrity! their perceived in-action in so many areas is a concern it will breed a sense of futility and existing support may begin to evaporate in a sea of growing apathy.

          1. Douglas says:

            People in Scotland will keep voting SNP because none of its leading lights are demonstrably mad or wicked, which puts the SNP in a different league from the current Tory govt….

            Besides, the SNP is the only credible political force in the country. The Scottish govt is highly professional, competent, efficient and Nicola Sturgoen is a decent, honest person. She means well. Maybe we shouldn’t expect anything more from them?

            Fact is, the Scot Gov have been acting as firefighters for the last ten years, putting out the endless blazes and fires started by the pyromaniac neighbours, from Calamity Cameron and his feeble minded schoolboy mentality (the emotional age of a ten year old) to George “total bastard” Osborne’s ideologically driven austerity (the gimp who cried at Thatcher’s funeral), and then these last three utterly shambolic and embarrassing years of ineptitude and incompetence, complacency and just sheer ignorance, something which has turned the UK from one of the most respected and even admired countries in the world, into an international laughing stock and destroyed, completely destroyed and shredded once and for all its reputation as a serious partner, for ever maybe…

  4. Alistair MacKichan says:

    The talk is good. Sturgeon does PR well. And the direction is fine, but as other Comments rightly note, we are not really travelling it effectively. Part of the reason for that is we don’t yet understand what we need to do. A wellbeing economy has sustainability, lack of consumerism, careful management of waste, recycling and upcycling, habitats preservation, pollution elimination, all these environmental and raw-material related concerns to consider. With a drastic revision of the raw materials of production, international trade in consumption of minerals and primary production products – food and wood – will plummet, and GDP, the size of the stomach which ingests these materials, will shrink rapidly. In the talk Sturgeon does not countenance this, and she cannot for she upholds the current commercial establishment to a man (and woman) as the Growth Commission illustrated. Sturgeon’s wellbeing indicators are social, not environmental, and this is the mistake. Once we are thinking about our housing, our mental health and our childcare we are into a subsidiary area of community development which is very essential, possibly even more important, but nothing to do with degrowth. Economics, ideas of Capitalism exploiting raw materials with inputs of labour to produce, produce, produce has to be tackled at its core, and a new Adam Smith has to articulate “The Survival Strategy of Nations”, and the commercial establishment has to find new jobs.

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