Letters:That elusive feel-good factor

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your leading article "Reasons to be cheerful" (21 December) discusses reasons why the "feel-good factor" is not working despite economic statistics that are claimed to show solid progress. We write to suggest some additional reasons.

While your editorial comment about counting our wealth "in non-productive housing rather than in direct industrial investment" (emphasis added) makes good sense to orthodox economists, it makes no sense at all to Green/ecological/alternative economists or to most non-economists.

Further, since economic achievement is painstakingly (and expensively) assessed as Gross Domestic Product or "growth", anything that does not contribute to "marketed busyness" (such as family child care) is ignored. At the same time, defensive expenditures such as the increased purchasing of security devices and services (and more expensive property and contents insurance) are all clocked up as positive - as growth. Do any of us feel good to have to spend more on trying to resist or compensate for crime?

Or consider water. The more we buy bottled water, the more the orthodox economists clock up growth. But if we buy bottled water because we don't like the taste of "partly reycled water" or because we are not wanting to increase our supply of nitrates from fertilisers or oestrogens from some pesticides, we don't feel we are adding anything to our (and our children's) lives. Rather, we feel we are trying to hold on to something we once took for granted.

Similarly, the more the orthodox crow about "downsizing" and "slimming", the more we ordinary mortals feel stress and job insecurity. To put it another way, the more the ecological and psychological effects of economic "progress" are experienced, the more the search for the elusive "feel-good factor". Some economic trends are indeed better but some improvement in unemployment, for instance, still leaves us with an unacceptable number of people who are rejected and damaged by our economic disorganisation .

Is it not high time to downsize the employment of orthodox economists? The more the world changes and needs to change, the more we need accurate assessors of social and ecological change.

Yours faithfully, PETER DRAPER JOHN HATFIELD London, N10

22 December

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