Adonis Diaries

Revisited: “How do you value quality of life?”

Posted on: October 22, 2009

Revisited: “How do you value quality of life?” 

            I needed to re-edit this post to expand and clarify my project. French President Sarkozy assembled a committee of Nobel Prize economists such as Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen to ponder on new indicators for measuring economic performance and social progress. This honorable committee submitted its report on September 13, 2009. The conclusion of the report concerning social progress target the well being of the citizens such as life expectancy, affordable health care, affordable dwelling, worthy education system that focus on individual reflection instead of data and fact memorization since the individual will be called upon to act on his decision, alternatives to organize our life around activities that we love; having satisfying jobs that we value; the possibility of expressing our opinions in public politics and social meetings; enjoying wholesome environment, clean water and purer breathable air; and feeling secure in the neighborhood.  All this social indicators are more valuable to measure how a State has been progressing than relying solely on GNP or how many cars a family own or the number of household equipments.

           

            In this post I will ask binary questions of (Yes or No) for voting on laws and amendments in three categories of quality of life: personal, community, and State levels.

            On the State level let us consider that the tax breaks exempt people earning less than $10,000 of taxes.  If the State decided to exempt people earning less than $15,000 would you vote for that new tax break knowing that investing money on the previous tax break are targeted to preserving natural reserves, distributing electricity 24 hours per day at the original rate, establishing affordable State health care for all, paying higher rates for teachers for continuing education to encourage individual reflection, increasing rates for nurses with higher quality of services, investing in clean alternative sources of energy, or salvaging beach resorts and better accommodating camping grounds and reclaiming greener locations for the public? How would you vote?

            Thus, each time you vote yes for the new tax breaks would mean that you don’t care that much about the alternative investment in quality of life.  For example, a sample question would be: Would you vote to exempt people earning less than $15,000 in taxes if the tax generated from the current tax break is allocated to preserving natural reserves?

            Let us consider that the government decided to raise taxes on new homes and larger apartments in order to invest on other values of quality of life such reclaiming greener spaces, saving the forest, tending to trekking routes, outdoor camping grounds, constructing public facilities for communities meeting, art galleries, continuing education classes, high quality services establishments for the elderly, and kids intramural sports facilities? How would you vote?  A sample question would be: would you vote for raising taxes on new houses if the generated budget is targeted to reclaiming greener spaces?

            Let us ponder on this line of thought; the government decided to raise taxes on frequent flyers, families with more than two cars, gas guzzling vehicles, and stock traders in order to invest on enforcing laws on gender discrimination, equal employment laws, health and safety in the work place, child abuse, unbiased election laws, equitable laws for minorities; wider range for freedom of expression, and rehabilitating prison systems. How would you vote?        The sample question would be: would you be agreeable to raising taxes on gas guzzling cars if the generated money is earmarked to cover the expense of more law enforcing agents and judges on gender discrimination?

             

            On the community level, suppose that if people postponed purchasing their first cars for a year and the saved money covers the expenses of inoculating all babies in the community then how would you vote?  Suppose people are asked to postpone buying a new car instead of their older one for a year, then how would you vote?  Suppose of inoculating babies the community decided for pay for free complete blood tests for citizens over 45 of years? Suppose that the community can perform free bypass surgery for the badly needed patients, or free urine dialysis?

            What if you can postpone for a year replacing your washing machine to cover the expenses of investing in playgrounds for kids, or clean water, or new sewer system, or public transport system, or upgrading a hospital, or modernizing schools with updated communication and audio visual systems? How would you vote?

            On the personal level, suppose your family is over three kids and they attend private schools. If you are to send them to public schools, in safe neighborhoods, then would you invest the saved money on a new bathroom, building an extra large room for the kids to assemble and play, arranging the garden as an attractive playground for the kids, taking additional vacations, working part-time so that you may monitor the teaching of your kids after school, subscribing your kids in various clubs and extra-curricular activities, or going out more frequently to movie theaters, musical event, and plays?

            The premises are clear: for the same financial saving you have choices of improving the quality of life of the many in return of lavisher personal comfort or “standard of living”.  These questionnaires permit you to value the kinds of quality of life you believe in; they are easy to administer and the responses can be statistically analyzed using statistical packages specialized for binary responses.  How your community value quality of life? How your nation value quality of life?  What do you think about this research project?

 

Note: Joseph Stiglitz is not welcomed in the Obama Administration because he harshly criticized the President’s economic adviser Larry Summers in The New York Times; Stiglitz said: “the plan for financial and economic stability is too modest to be effective. The pumping of money in banks is practically free gifts offered to Wall Street: only investors and creditors to these banks are benefiting but not the tax payers.”  Stiglitz is the chief of the line of economists who attack the concept that free markets have the capability to stabilize imbalances efficiently.  His mathematical models have demonstrated that transactions in free markets are biased toward those who are specialized in finance and have the necessary data to fool clients; “globalization has created a fresh pool of investors to exploit their ignorance”.

            As far as I recall Amartya Sen demonstrated that micro-improvement to the economical and social progress of the common people is far more effective than mega projects that displace people and environment to please the grotesque ego of bureaucrats.

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adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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