You know that feeling when you're reading a book and you wonder why you didn't know about it at least 15 years ago? Whilst travelling I recently swapped my second hand Borges (wow, that dude needs careful reading..with caffeine) for Marilyn Waring's Counting for Nothing. Sub-title: What Men Value and What Women Are Worth. No surprise to those who bear the brunt of my rants as to why that caught my eye. And it's wrecking my head. Not cause I didn't know this stuff. 'Cause I've been banging on about it for years. It's because I *have* been banging on about this stuff for years...but clearly not damn loudly enough. It's the sort of thing that you read, scribble a spider's web of lines and exclamation marks and underlinings and one's own "yes, yes, yes!" across the text - there's not enough room in the margins. Let me share with you a few choice points.
She's talking about the UNSNA - the UN System of National Accounts. The way we (globally) measure a nation's income and expenditure, *in order to create public policy*. (This is important.) Fair enough, you may say. Except for three details. 1: They ignore unpaid labour - ie they ignore most of what women do, across the world. Water in a pipe managed by a company has "value". Water carried 25 kilometres by a woman on her head has none. 2. They ignore the value of our natural ecosystems. A "harvested" forest has "value". A standing forest providing water cycling, soil to grow food, habitat, fuel, shelter, forage, food and recreation, has none. And 3: It was developed over the period of the last 60 plus years as a means of justifying national expenditure on war.
Get it yet? The reason the "in order to create public policy" is important here is that if we exclude two massive component issues - the work of women and the natural systems we rely on for life - then, unsurpisingly, the public policy that is created will - um - exclude them too. And if, then, they were developed to create the circumstances under which we can - ie *will* - find way to justify buying the tools for war - then war will happen over and above the wellbeing of a nation's citizens.
Enough, already. All I can say is she's right, she's right, she's right, and I wish I'd had a copy of this book to throw at the heads of all the economists and economic development suits (sadly, in my experience, all blokes - which does not mean all blokes are numpties, by the way - it just means that all the standard (ie not deviant) economists I have met to date are numpties, but maybe it's not surprising as they've been fed a pup which they're more likely to swallow as it prioritises their own type and gender ) who have told me that I don't understand as I'm a girl (sic) and that "environmental input does not equal economic output" (sic).
Marilyn Waring. Counting for Nothing. 1989.