“There [is] a role for unconscious will in a theory of decision making… particularly for those objectives that deeply affect our lives.” – Nevin, 1989
“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” – Robert F. Kennedy
The 3rd Principle of Economic Reality is: the rules we set – how we construct the economy – depends on what we are trying to accomplish. This principle is self evident but remarkably seems to have been lost in the economic debates of developed nations. The implication is clear – if we are to accomplish our purpose, which is to improve economic policy and decision-making for a better Canada and world, we must state explicitly what the economy is meant to do for individuals and societies and then measure accurately whether it is, in fact, doing that.
So, what is “the economy” for? The economy is part of a set of social structures, norms, and policies designed to provide Flourishing to the people of a nation. If Flourishing is the goal, then Flourishing also provides the ideal measure of how well an economy is doing; the attractiveness of various policy alternatives and economic prescriptions is best assessed against the set of criteria that must be met for a society to Flourish.
Flourishing is a concept from Positive Psychology (and elsewhere in the respective experiences of Neill and Nevin) defined as living within an optimal range of human functioning, one that connotes autonomy, connectedness, and resilience. We have chosen as our core objective, then, a concept that captures the full range of human aspirations and recognizes both the need for healthy growth and the essential role that resilience plays in life. We are also committed to the view that acknowledgement of personal human dignity and a degree of opportunity for risk-taking are essential to individual and social flourishing. Of course, Flourishing is more than just economics, but the structure and performance of the economy are the single greatest factors that create an environment in which people can flourish. And, just as importantly, Flourishing is now being measured.
We employ the Flourishing lens to tell us both how the economy is performing and also as the basis for considering practical steps for evaluating economic policy. Of course, there are many other social and individual factors that influence whether an individual flourishes; however, we believe that the structure of the economy is the single biggest influence on the potential of a society to achieve a high degree of flourishing. One critical advantage of Flourishing is that it highlights just how far we have to go.
National economies – including Canada – are not performing anywhere near their potential.
This is what Neill and Nevin intend to rectify.