“GDP is only a measure of financial value, and it is a flawed measure.” – Our Reflections on Wealth of Nations 2.0

Posted in: Blog, News.

An ornate hall with stained glass windows, with seven tables full of delegates all with their backs to the camera. At the back, a person stands in front of a lectern

At the start of November we were very proud to be a sponsor at this year’s Wealth of Nations 2.0 Conference. Organised by the Wellbeing Economy Alliance (WEAll) Scotland, the event saw keynote speeches by Fiona Duncan from The Promise, Miriam Brett, Research Fellow at the WEAll and Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture, Angus Robertson.

The event was notable for the launch of the Wellbeing economy toolkit for local authorities by Angus Robertson.

Throughout the packed day, our CEO Martin Avila was asked to be a Keynote Listener and below are his reflections during the event.


We’ve heard at this year’s Wealth of Nations 2.0 event that we’ve known since the days of Robert F Kennedy that Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is insufficient for measuring the true wealth of our country, communities, families and individual lives for quite some time. Famously, as far back as 1968, RFK said of the Gross Domestic Product:

“It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.

“…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 measures everything in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

GDP is only a measure of financial value, and it is a flawed measure at that. It talks only of volume and not of the value or even the efficiency of financial flows. Yet most of all, it lacks the ability to measure the ecological or social value that financial activity creates, or more accurately, exploits and degrades in the endless pursuit of wealth extraction and consolidation.

As a result, we are spending increasing amounts of money to combat the effects of the manner in which our economy is organised, money that we and our communities don’t have because of the ineffectiveness of our tax systems, in trying to rectify the problems that we have created through our own financial decisions.

The Need to Move to a New Economy System

Many of the contributions at this year’s event were focused on the need to move to an economic system that prioritises investment decisions that actively support the Scottish Government’s policy aims, aims such as Community Wealth Building and the transition to a Wellbeing Economy.

Most inspiringly we heard from Miriam Brett whose clarion call reminded us:

  • We don’t have any more time to waste. The social inequality that we see is ripping the world apart. Many of us in the global north are insulated from the true impact of our economic decisions. The climate crisis, the resource wars, the ecological collapse that is coming are proof that we don’t have time left. The global south is suffering and the north is starting to feel the effects. Time is up; we need to accelerate the transition to a Wellbeing Economy.
  • That there’s real opportunity and responsibility to build on the favourable political and policy environment that we have in Scotland, to move beyond capitalism and to do something more.
  • That there are real and practical steps that we can take to address the social inequality and ecological devastation caused by our fixation and unending, unregulated and untrammelled growth. We don’t have the time to sit and despair, there are practical steps we can take now to start to reduce inequality and start to regenerate our social and economic capital.
  • The solutions are clear even if the problems are both wicked and complex. The regeneration of social and ecological capital must be the driving factor when economic decisions are made. We can’t make financial decisions and hope that wellbeing trickles down as a result of that.

We must go beyond simply having a performance framework to using it to drive accountability across all public bodies.

The way to achieve a Wellbeing Economy is through an economic development framework that prioritises Community Wealth Building. It is only by ensuring that all of Scotland’s citizens and communities play a part in a truly democratic economy that we reach the highest levels of social and ecological wellbeing.

Without ensuring that Scotland’s most economically productive assets are intrinsically orientated to the creation of social value then we will not be able to tackle Scotland’s social and health inequalities.

In an age when ecological breakdown is happening at an ever-increasing rate and that the social fabric of our society is straining at the seams, it is incumbent on all of us to understand our role in a more inclusive and sustainable economy.

The WEAll movement itself is inspiring. The final takeaway from the day for me was that we are seeing a movement building momentum that is focused on and dedicated to creating a different kind of economy. Creating a different kind of economy will require us all to work together, and WEAll is a great banner under which to do that.

As WEAll gains more momentum, it is important that we have people in institutions which will champion it so that we can create an economy that benefits us all. This year’s event demonstrated the will of different organisations, and countries, to work together to create a wellbeing economy.

We’re not sure what the next year will bring, but we all have a responsibility to ensure that we move this debate forward by then!

If you would like to learn more about WeAll Scotland, please visit their website here.



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