Attached is a short excerpt from a 1968 speech given by Robert F. Kennedy at the University of Kansas during his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. I’ve kept a copy for years and re-read it often as I believe it still describes — 50 years later — the faulty way our GDP is measured, leaving out important values that should be measured. It may be good for everyone to be reminded of these important values at this moment in history when we seem to have lost our moral compass.
University of Kansas, March 18, 1968:
“Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task; it is to confront the poverty of satisfaction, purpose, and dignity that afflicts us all.
“Too much and for too long, we seem to have surrendered personal excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our Gross National Product, now, is over $800 billion a year, but that Gross National Product — if we judge the United States of America by that — counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage.
“It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl.
“It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armored cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts Whitman’s rifle and Speck’s knife and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.
“Yet 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.
“And it can tell us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans.
“If this is true here at home, so it is true elsewhere in world.”