Tackling the environmental, social and democratic major current crises requires, among others, changing the way “wealth” or “progress” is conceived and measured. To this respect, going beyond traditional economic indicators such as GDP appears to be a growing concern for many actors. But should the definition of new measures of “progress” be the exclusive duty of experts, as the creation of the Stiglitz Commission would suggest it?
That is from the latter question that the FAIR has emerged, constituting a singular actor within the current debates on going beyond GDP. For FAIR’s members, measuring progress is first and foremost a collective exercise. Considering that not exclusively experts should be given the power of deciding on new measures, the FAIR has gathered networks from civil society, associations, unions, territory actors and researchers from many disciplines, all of them having, by a way or another, already been involved in the quest for new measures of “wealth”.
1. Measuring “Wealth”: going behind the numbers
The major specificity of FAIR’s contribution to the search for new indicators is to stress the numerous values and visions of the world inherent to a choice of measure. For such immaterial concepts as “true wealth”, “societal progress” or “sustainability”, the way they are measured actually shapes the way they will be defined, perceived and thought of. Therefore, defining measures inevitably implies shaping societal finalities. Such an inextricable relation between values (what is wealth?) and technique (how to measure it?) is though too often occulted beyond the veil of methodological concerns, leaving the choice of indicators to experts. From this normative power of indicators, three main issues arise, constituting the main pillars underlying FAIR’s edifice:
1) Ethical issue: the search for new indicators aims to clarify ends which would be unattainable if market and money value remain predominant. These ends relate to environmental and social wealth as well as to sustainable human development.
2) Political issue: participation of the society and political deliberation are indispensable ways in the definition of societal finalities and in the choice of assessment criteria corresponding to these ends.
3) Issue of collectively building measures: the bottom-up processes of quantification must be encouraged. To that respect, the different experiences and background from FAIR’s members should enrich one another in the elaboration of new measures.
2. FAIR’s major initiatives
FAIR members have developped many initiatives about indicators, individually and as a collective, in the form of indicators of of publications.
FAIR has established a “notebook of initiatives”, most of which being structured as follows:
Measuring something else
- Non-marketed Security Rate, (in French “Taux de sécurité démarchandisée”, TSD)
- Bip-40 (Barometer of inequalities and poverties)
- Index of Economic Well-Being
Measuring on the field
- Produit Intérieur Doux (Soft Domestic Product)
- Pekea (Political and Ethical Knowledge on Economic Activities)
- Index of Well-Being in Amazonia
FAIR members have also contributed to publications:
- Dominique Méda, Qu’est-ce que la richesse ? Aubier 1999 et Flammarion 2000 (new edition in May 2008, with a new preface).
- Patrick Viveret, Reconsidérer la richesse, Éditions de l’aube, 2005.
- Jean Gadrey and Florence Jany-Catrice, Les nouveaux indicateurs de richesse, 2nd updated édition, La découverte, 2007.
- Attac (coord. Jean-Marie Harribey), Le développement a-t-il un avenir ? Mille et une nuits, 2004.
- Bernard Perret, Indicateurs sociaux, état des lieux et perspectives, rapport pour le CERC, 2002.
- Programme des Nations Unies pour le Développement, rapport mondial 2007-2008.
- Isabelle Cassiers and Géraldine Thiry, « Au-delà du PIB : réconcilier ce qui compte et ce que l’on compte », Regards Economiques, n°75, Décembre 2009.
- Numerous works and presentations can be consulted or downloaded on the PEKEA website.
Collectively, FAIR has produced different documents, the major ones being:
- FAIR Manifesto (in French)
- FAIR Charter (to be published)
Current and further action/research program
– In the context of regional elections in France, FAIR has recently launched an interpellation of the major French political parties on the question of new indicators of measures.
– “http://www.mainsdoeuvres.org/article347.html”, on the 26th March 2010.