Gross Domestic Product, inflation, 'Leading Economic Indicators', housing prices, unemployment rates, etc. Here in the United States we have so many ways of measuring our current status as a country. Every year, someone calculates how much money was spent on holiday shopping the day after Thanksgiving and compares it to years past in an effort to determine how the retailers will do this year. We follow stock markets and peruse mortgage rates and decide whether or not to spend our money now or save it for later.
As the largest capitalist society on the planet it makes sense that we ought to track these things. On the other hand, I have reached a stage in my life where my desires are so much less consumer-oriented than they ever have been and I found myself in the shower yesterday morning worrying about the economy. Worrying that if I downsize and begin to restrict my spending in order to align my material goods with my longing for increased simplicity in my life that might impact the economy of this country negatively. Millions of jobs count on me spending my money. Clerks in shops, manufacturers making cheap 'disposable' products, long-haul truckers bringing those goods to market, advertisers convincing me that I need the latest, greatest gadget to fulfill my exercise/culinary/gift-giving obligations, the list goes on.
Wouldn't it be great if we could somehow measure our collective wealth in less tangible ways? How about finding a way to assess one's satisfaction with the balance in their life? What if we knew at any given time whether the majority of citizens of our country were happy and fulfilled? Instead of calculating the rates of philanthropy, how about we find a way to ask why people give of themselves? How can we begin to change our mindset from that of finding success in a bank account or a huge house full of shiny new toys to finding success being satisfied with the relationships we have with ourselves and others? The older I get the more I want to find that place where capitalism fades into the background and becomes overshadowed by humanity. Instead of the news carrying 'human interest stories' of people sharing their time and money and love with others as if that were astonishing, let's populate the media with those examples and perhaps feature the occasional blurb about the richest man in the world. Wouldn't it be great?