An occasional topic on the dissident right is how the popular measures of the economy have no relevance to the daily lives of people. Andrew Yang has picked up on this and talks about the need for new measures. For example, the Gross Domestic Product has its uses, but it says very little about the life of the typical person. What most of these popular measures tell us is how much activity there is in the economy, but they tell us very little about the prosperity of the people, which is really what matters.
This story from the Daily Mail is a good starting point for thinking about the difference between activity and prosperity in the economy. The men hired to build these mansions certainly got employment from the task. They were paid wages to do stuff, at least until the project was finished. The building of these mansions certainly added to the GDP and improved the unemployment rate. Yet, no one would look at the result and say Britain is more prosperous as a result. In fact, the opposite seems true.
This is because prosperity is not a purely material measure. When Notre Dame Cathedral burned down, the wealth of the typical Frenchman was diminished, because a part of his cultural heritage was lost. Economic activity will increase when they decide to rebuild it, but the result will not make France more prosperous. In fact, the result will only add to the cultural loss, as the people in charge will make a mockery of the original structure. Notre Dame will be another Parisian eyesore.
In fairness to economist, we can measure economic activity, but we can only sense economic prosperity. The former is like measuring wind gusts in a storm. The latter is to assess the damage done by the storm. The mistake is in assuming the former is objective while the latter is subjective. While true, to some degree, the choice of measures is always subjective. There is a reason we hear about the unemployment rate every month, but no one ever discusses the workforce participation rate.
The zeal of modern economists for measuring activity is about avoiding the topic of culture and the prosperity of the people. For example, our rulers don’t want the people debating whether it is better to pay more for goods and services provided by a local seller, versus from a global operator. This is the sort of discussion that leads to debates about who benefits and why. The people in charge want as many people in the wheel, running as fast as they can, not thinking about who? whom?
Ultimately, while activity has its value, the fundamental focus of a people is on their collective prosperity. Not the prosperity of a few, but of the whole. Venezuela is in flux, in part, because it’s overall increase in prosperity, the last two decades, has not increased the general prosperity of the people. Granted, outside forces are playing a major role, but subversion is possible because the people don’t feel they are benefiting from the system. No one has ever revolted against prosperity.
In America, social unrest is increasing, despite the increase in economic activity, because the white population senses a loss in their prosperity. Would the typical white person pay a little more for groceries if the stores were staffed with white people and the emergency room did not look like a Tijuana bus stop? From the perspective of economics, we would be poorer, but the quality of life would be much higher. It turns out that the true cost of cheap labor is the prosperity of the people.
This was always the error made by socialist of various types. Communists took it the furthest, assuming that humans were nothing more than economic units. The body count eventually disabused the Soviets of this, but the damage had been done. It will take generations to undo the damage of Bolshevism. Similarly, the Chinese have gone down the same road, thinking activity is prosperity. Their plummeting birth rate ensures that China will get old long before she gets truly prosperous.
One very important aspect of the great culture war in the West right now is a debate about activity versus prosperity. Do you want to be a guy in the ethnostate with less stuff or the guy with the latest of everything in a deracinated cosmopolitan area? Would you rather have a little less activity in order to have more of what defines you? The social capital that is a natural product of homogeneous societies has a value. We gave it up for cheap product. The question now is how much will it cost to get it back?
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