Reconsidering Wealth

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* Report: Reconsiderer la richesse. Rapport d'etape de la mission 'Nouveaux Facteurs de Richesse", au Secretaire d'Etat a l'Economie Solidaire, Mr. Guy Hascoet Patrick Viveret.


Michel Bauwens, 2004:

This report was prepared under the Jospin government, and denounced the traditional GDP accounts, which count AIDS and pollution as assets, but not volunteering. It's aim was to develope new forms of measurement, but for that, it is necessary to define wealth, just as was already done a first time through the Enlightenment.

The report starts with a historical account.

The three revolutions of the Enligthenment were:

   - Culturally: the autonomy of reason and the individual
   - Politically: sovereignty based on the will of the people, and no longer on divine right
   - Scientifically: Progress and History as the new personal and collective meaning

After these changes take effect, the 'economy of salvation' is replaced by the material economy, which for the first time in history becomes primary. The key critiques of the old order, and of the old classes, is that they lacked productivity.

   - Malthus is the first to define money and sees commodities as the sole criterion of wealth (excluding domestic and government workers)
   - J.B. Say will introduce the concepts of value and utility, distinguishing them from any moral concept.
   - Leon Walras will say: "L'economie s'emancipe du politique et ne connait que 3 categories: l'individu, le desir, et la raison calculatrice au service de ce desir.

Viveret then discusses the development of the Indicators of Human Development (by the PNUD). This was the first time that:

   - 1) it was recognized that economic growth is only a means
   - 2) that economic growth and HD are not automatically linked
   - 3) and that the development of quality indicators based on the latter becomes paramount.

Indicators of Human Poverty were also developed and differentiated for poor and rich countries. They clearly show the the superiority of social models and neoliberal ones.

At the same time, the World Bank has developed a measure which combines 'physical capital' (16%), natural capital (20%), and 'human capital' (64%), while others such as Japan, have experimented with "Net National Welfare". In this model, "damage expenses" are retracted, and social expenditures are added to GDP. A "Green GDP", i.e. "a system of integrated environmental accounting", has also been used by the UN.

Statistical Note: US inequality compared

From 1977 to 1999:

  • The lowest 10% have lower revenues (while middle classes are up 8%, and the top 110% were up 115%)
  • The 20% richest earn 9x more than the 20% poorest; while the same ration is 4 to 1 in Japan and 6 to 1 in Germany
  • The 20% poorest in Japan earn 50% more than the poorest in the US