Another peer against prosperity

In: Uncategorized

26 Oct 2010

Lord Peter Mandelson, a former British business minister and European Union trade commissioner, has an entirely unoriginal opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal Europe headlined “Prosperity is more than just money”.

He uses the release of the latest version of the Legatum Prosperity Index, for which he spoke at the launch, to make the argument that “wealth alone does not make for a happy and healthy society”. At least he had the good grace to quote the famous 1968 speech by Senator Robert F Kennedy (also quoted in my book) along the same lines.

Mandelson then makes the slightly odd argument that the experience of sub-Saharan Africa disproves those who favour the lone transformative power of money. In this respect he fails to discuss China: a huge success in terms both of economic growth and eliminating poverty.

His discussion of Africa is in term terms set by Amartya Sen (see previous posts). He discusses all sorts of “freedoms” including a safe water supply, a roof over you head and others.

Mandelson follows in the path of other prominent growth sceptic peers including Lord Richard Layard and Lord Robert Skidelsky. Sir Jonathon Porritt would also qualify except he has chose not to claim his baronetcy.

It is more important than ever to make the case that the abolition of scarcity is essential if we are to realise our full humanity. Economic growth is not the only factor involved but it is a necessary condition.

* For more on “mashup” indices see my 14 October 2010. Technically the Legatum Index is a mashup of mashups.