Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Standards of Living

A great part of economics is figuring out how to increase standards of living, or put more plainly, improve our living conditions. Indeed a great portion of the field is dedicated to growth, decreasing poverty, etc.

When most people argue for an economic or political policy they usually say it will improve living standards. This is an already well known fact. No one argues for something by saying it will make our lives worse off and almost everything is argued to make our lives better off.

So why am I bringing it up? A huge "problem" is measuring living standards. How do we know that living today is better than living yesterday?

Economists often use indicators like GDP, unemployment rate, inflation, poverty rate, income inequality, productivity, taxes, home ownership etc. to measure living standards. Others use technology and life expectancy as a gauge for better living. Still others measure it by crime rates and freedoms. All of these can paint a picture of living conditions, but how well?

If the economy is doing well, technology getting better, our freedoms increasing, our health improving, etc., but we continue to allow abortion, ignore adultery and pornography, increase divorces, etc. are we really living better?

How do we gauge whether or not we are improving our standards of living? It would be an incredible mistake to use only economic or material indicators.

I think the biggest consideration, as a Catholic, is: how many people are living as Christians? Certainly our greatest objective is to get to heaven and so this should be our absolute standard for living and the gauge by which we measure all our activities and living conditions. How well does the society live by the Ten Commandments? This is certainly a part of crime rates, but left out of the crime rates are honoring your mother and father, adultery, keeping holy the Sabbath, and putting God before all else. Not to mention that our definition of crime doesn't always align well with God's--the biggest culprit here is abortion. Indeed, I think one of our last considerations should be how much money we have now compared to yesterday.

Here is (the beginning of) a sample list of questions I think would be better to gauge living conditions by:

Have more people started living as Christians?
How well do people live by the Ten Commandments?
Have instances of murder/abortion/euthanasia decreased?
Have other crimes such as rape/assault/theft/etc. decreased?
Have divorces/out-of-wedlock births decreased?
Have more people earned their high school diploma/college degree?
Has the death rate of births gone down?
Do more people have the freedom to exercise their rights and responsibilities?
Do more people have the opportunity to earn their living and do they take advantage of it?
Have charity and solidarity increased?
Are we taking care of ourselves and our environment better?
Do more people have access to healthcare and are we improving our healthcare?
Are more people escaping poverty through their own hard work and the charity of others?

What can we add to this list to measure our standards of living? and how can we make these better? Comment below!

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