Friday, March 14, 2008

Another moment of economic zen

I don't typically turn to politicians for outstanding discussions of important economic principles. As a profession, they tend to be tied with journalists for the worst scores on economics tests administered to professionals... a very frightening statistic when I get down to it. But Prof. Craighead of Miami University -- one of my erstwhile potential employers -- posted this clip from a Robert Kennedy speech in 1968, and I thought it really explained the limitations of "scoring" nations according to GDP accounting. So I thought I'd share it while Hyrum sleeps:

The thing I remember most my professors mentioning that isn't included in GDP but ought to be is time mothering. It's a major work (as we are rapidly discovering on a whole new level), and it's very difficult to impute the worth of a mother in terms of toasters, movie tickets, and haircuts. The typical proposal for 'how we might-could do such a thing' (as the Utahns might put it) is to figure out how much a family would have to pay an outsider for similar services: the cooking, the cleaning, the day care, and so on. This goes along with a discussion we had recently at the Friday Forum, and from a familiar article written by an honest feminist, that we'd all really like to have a wife.

But this misses the magnificent point that was made at the LDS Church's recent Worldwide Leadership Training meeting, to which all members were invited. They mentioned a need to separate our concepts of 'home-making' from 'house-keeping.' House-keeping, they said, can be delegated to someone else. Home-making cannot. What makes a house a home is a divine work that cannot be abrogated or done in absentia, and as the more important work, is the part that's hardest to put into any calculation of GDP.

So here's to my wife and my mother, and their noble callings, sacrifices, and divine natures.

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