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Why governments should prioritize well-being

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    Just over a mile away from here
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    in Edinburgh's old town
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    is Panmure House.
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    Panmure House
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    was the home of the world-renowned
    Scottish economist Adam Smith.
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    In his important work
    "The Wealth of Nations,"
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    Adam Smith argued,
    amongst many other things,
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    that the measurement of a country's wealth
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    was not just its gold and silver reserves.
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    It was the totality of the country's
    production and commerce.
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    I guess it was one of the earliest
    descriptions of what we now know today
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    as Gross Domestic Product, GDP.
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    Now, in the years since, of course,
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    that measurement
    of production and commerce,
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    GDP, has become ever more important,
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    to the point that today,
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    and I don't believe that this
    is what Adam Smith would have intended,
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    that it is often seen as
    the most important measurement
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    of a country's overall success.
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    And my argument today
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    is that it is time for that to change.
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    You know, what we choose to measure
    as a country matters.
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    It really matters, because
    it drives political focus,
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    it drives at public activity,
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    and against that context,
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    I think the limitations of GDP
    as a measurement of a country's success
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    is all too obvious.
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    You know, GDP measures
    the output of all of our work,
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    but it says nothing about
    the nature of that work,
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    about whether that work
    is worthwhile or fulfilling.
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    It puts a value, for example,
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    on illegal drug consumption,
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    but not on unpaid care.
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    It values activity in the short term
    that boosts the economy
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    even if that activity is hugely damaging
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    to the sustainability of our planet
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    in the longer term.
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    And when we reflect on the past decade
    of political and economic upheaval,
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    of growing inequalities,
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    and when we look ahead to the challenges
    of the climate emergency,
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    increasing automation,
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    an aging population,
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    then I think the argument for the case
    for a much broader definition
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    of what it means to be successful
    as a country, as a society,
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    is compelling, and increasingly so.
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    And that is why Scotland in 2018
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    took the lead, took the initiative
    in establishing a new network
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    called the Wellbeing Economy
    Governments group,
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    bringing together as founding members
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    the countries of Scotland, Iceland,
    and New Zealand for obvious reasons.
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    We're sometimes called the SIN countries,
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    although our focus is very much
    on the common good.
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    And the purpose of this group
    is to challenge that focus
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    on the narrow measurement of GDP,
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    to say that, yes, economic growth matters.
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    It is important.
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    But it is not all that is important.
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    And growth in GDP should not be pursued
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    at any or all cost.
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    In fact, the argument of that group
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    is that the goal, the objective
    of economic policy
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    should be collective wellbeing:
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    how happy and healthy a population is,
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    not just how wealthy a population is.
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    And I will touch on the policy
    implications of that in a moment,
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    but I think particularly
    in the world we live in today
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    it has a deeper resonance.
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    You know, when we focus on wellbeing,
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    we start a conversation
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    that provokes profound
    and fundamental questions.
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    What really matters to us in our lives?
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    What do we value in
    the communities we live in?
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    What kind of country,
    what kind of society,
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    do we really want to be?
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    And when we engage people
    in those questions,
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    in finding the answers to those questions,
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    then I believe that we have
    a much better chance
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    of addressing the alienation
    and disaffection from politics
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    that is so prevalent in so many countries
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    across the developed world today.
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    In policy terms, this journey
    for Scotland started back in 2007
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    when we published what we call
    our National Performance Framework,
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    looking at the range of indicators
    that we measure ourselves against.
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    And those indicators are as varied
    as income inequality,
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    the happiness of children,
    access to green spaces,
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    access to housing.
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    None of these are captured
    in GDP statistics,
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    but they are all fundamental
    to a healthy and a happy society.
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    (Applause)
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    And that broader approach is at the heart
    of our economic strategy,
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    where we give equal importance
    to tackling inequality
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    as we do to economic competitiveness.
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    It drives our commitment to fair work,
    making sure that work is fulfilling
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    and well-paid.
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    It's behind our decision to establish
    a just transition commission
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    to guide our path
    to a carbon zero economy.
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    We know from economic
    transformations of the past
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    that if we're not careful,
    there are more losers than winners.
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    And as we face up to the challenges
    of climate change and automation,
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    we must not make those mistakes again.
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    The work we're doing here in Scotland
    is, I think, significant,
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    but we have much, much to learn
    from other countries.
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    I mentioned a moment ago
    our partners at nations
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    in the wellbeing network,
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    Iceland and New Zealand.
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    So I'm noting, and I will leave it to you
    to decide whether this is relevant or not
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    that all three of these countries
    are currently led by women.
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    (Applause)
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    They too are doing great work,
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    New Zealand, in 2019,
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    publishing its first wellbeing budget
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    with mental health at its heart;
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    Iceland leading the way on equal pay,
    child care, and paternity rights,
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    not policies that we immediately think of
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    when we talk about
    creating a wealthy economy
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    but policies that are fundamental
    to a health economy
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    and a happy society.
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    I started with Adam Smith
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    and "The Wealth of Nations."
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    In Adam Smith's earlier work,
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    "The Theory of Moral Sentiments,"
    which I think is just as important,
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    he made the observation
    that the value of any government
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    is judged in proportion
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    to the extent that it makes
    its people happy.
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    I think that is a good founding principle
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    for any group of countries
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    focused on promoting wellbeing.
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    None of us have all of the answers,
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    and not even Scotland,
    the birthplace of Adam Smith,
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    but in the world we live in today,
    with growing divides and inequalities,
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    with disaffection and alienation,
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    it is more important than ever
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    that we ask and find the answers
    to those questions
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    and promote a vision of society
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    that has wellbeing,
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    not just wealth,
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    at its very heart.
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    (Applause)
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    You are right now in the beautiful,
    sunny capital city
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    (Laughter)
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    of the country that led the world
    in the Enlightenment,
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    the country that helped lead the world
    into the Industrial Age,
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    the country that right now
    is helping to lead the world
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    into the low carbon age.
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    I want, and I'm determined,
    that Scotland will also be the country
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    that helps change the focus of countries
    and governments across the world
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    to put wellbeing at the heart
    of everything that we do.
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    I think we owe that to this generation.
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    I certainly believe we owe that
    to the next generation
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    and all those that come after us,
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    and if we do that right here
    from the country of the Enlightenment,
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    then I think we create
    a better, healthier, fairer,
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    and happier society here at home,
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    and we play our part in Scotland
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    in building a fairer,
    happier world as well.
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    Thank you very much.
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    (Applause)
Title:
Why governments should prioritize well-being
Speaker:
Nicola Sturgeon
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Team:
closed TED
Project:
TEDTalks
Duration:
10:00

English subtitles

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