The day is not far off when the economic problem will take the back seat where it belongs, and the arena of the heart and the head will be occupied or reoccupied, by our real problems – the problems of life and of human relations, of creation and behaviour and religion.
These are the words of John Maynard Keynes in the first annual report of the Arts Council in 1946. Keynes was writing a lifetime ago, and he was wrong. The “economic problem” of today is firmly in the driving seat of policy with higher economic growth the ultimate goal of many policymakers. But is growth of the economy – producing more goods and services (usually measured as the percentage change of GDP) – a good indicator of well-being or the quality of life? The economist, Simon Kuznets, who developed the concept of GDP in 1934, was sceptical, remarking that: “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.
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