Build a better future by improving our understanding and measurement of human progress.
How we measure progress reveals our values and shapes
our future. So what does America's portrait of progress tell us about our
collective values and goals? The traditional portrait presented by most of our media and political
leaders includes the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and stock market. But do such measures really reflect our
most cherished values and aspirations? In his first
major campaign speech on March 18, 1968, Robert Kennedy warned against measuring ourselves by wealth
Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community value in the
mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over eight hundred billion
dollars a year, but that GNP — if we judge the United States of America by that — that GNP counts air pollution and cigarette
advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors
and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwoods and the loss of
our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and it counts nuclear warheads, and
armored cars for the police to fight riots in our cities. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife,
and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their
education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength
of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials.
It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our
compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which
makes life worthwhile. And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that
we are Americans.
As we enter the 21st century, it is time to begin measuring what we value rather than valuing what