How Do We Make America Great?

November 28, 2016 Carol No comments exist

Trump’s campaign pledge was to “Make America great again.”


Let us as a nation pledge to “Make America great.”. Drop the “again,” because it suggests that we might need to turn back the clock. When, in fact, what’s needed are some fresh new ideas about how to move forward.


So then … How do we make America great?


We begin with this task: Put money in its place. Because, just as money has a proper place in an individual’s life, so too it should have a proper place in the life of a nation. And just as material wealth does not measure the worth of a person, neither should it measure the greatness of a nation.

Sub-tasks include:

  • Examine the failures of the current economic system.
  • Determine the proper criteria for measuring a nation’s greatness.
  • Find a better economic system that meets those criteria.

Examine the failures of the current economic system.

If you think the current economic system has failed you, you are not alone. David Korten explains, “Our current political chaos has a simple explanation. The economic system is driving environmental collapse, economic desperation, political corruption, and financial instability. And it isn’t working for the vast majority of people.”

The quote above is from How to Break the Power of Money, one of a series Korten has written for YES! Magazine. Here are some excerpts from that same article:

We can refuse to accept the pervasive, but false, claims that money is wealth and a growing GDP improves the lives of all.

Awareness of system failure is widespread and growing. We see it in the rebellion against the establishment wings of the major political parties. We see it as previously competing social movements join forces to articulate and actualize a common vision of a new economy. We see it in varied and widely dispersed local citizen initiatives quietly rebuilding the relationships of caring communities. We see it in millions of defectors from consumerism, who by choice or necessity are living more simply.

Determine the proper criteria for measuring a nation’s greatness.

Compare three different methods of measuring a nation’s greatness. 

Gross Domestic Product (GDP)

The idea of a single number to show a country’s economic power came from US Nobel-prize winning economist Simon Kuznets – and that’s what GDP is, a measure of economic output. Even Kuznets agreed that “the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measure of national income”.

It’s useful to look at what then-US Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy said about how GDP falls short. The date was 1968, the occasion was an election rally. Full text of the speech at the jfklibrary

 How GDP failed. Robert Kennedy addresses an election rally in 1968. Photograph: Harry Benson/Getty Images
Photograph: Harry Benson/Getty Images

Our Gross National Product…counts air pollution and cigarette advertising…special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder…It measures everything, in short….…except that which makes life worthwhile. —  Bobby Kennedy on GDP: ‘measures everything except that which is worthwhile’ | News | The Guardian

Gross National Happiness (GNH)

Gross National Happiness, as the guiding philosophy of Bhutan’s development process, was pronounced by His Majesty the Fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, soon after his enthronement in 1972.

GNH is a much richer objective than GDP or economic growth. In GNH, material well-being is      important but it is also important to enjoy sufficient well-being in things like community, culture,  governance, knowledge and wisdom, health, spirituality and psychological welfare, a balanced use of  time, and harmony with the environment. — Gross National Happiness

For an excellent overview of GNH, see Why GNH should have an integral role in the post-2015 global development agenda. by Tshering Cigay Dorji

Presently, the GNH index developed by the Centre for Bhutan Studies (Ura  et al. 2012) consists of 9 domains with 33 indicators as shown in Figure 1.

make America great
Figure 1. The nine domains and 33 indicators of the GNH index (Reproduced from Ura et al. 2012)

Better Life Initiative

The stated mission of The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) is “to promote policies that will improve the economic and social well-being of people around the world.” 


OECD’s Better Life Initiative and the work program on Measuring Well-Being and Progress attempts tp answer these questions:

  • Are our lives getting better?
  • How can policies improve our lives?
  • Are we measuring the right things?

“They allow understanding what drives well-being of people and nations and what needs to be done to achieve greater progress for all.”  

The OECD’s Better Life Index “allows you to compare well-being across countries, based on 11 topics the OECD has identified as essential, in the areas of material living conditions and quality of life.”

make America great

make America great

Do you see a fundamental difference between GDP and the other two methods? To quote Robert Kennedy, GDP “measures everything, in short….…except that which makes life worthwhile.” Both GNH and Better Life Index attempt to measure those very worthwhile things.

Find a better economic system that meets those criteria.

Imagine an economy in which life is valued more than money and power resides with ordinary people who care about one another, their community, and their natural environment. It is possible. It is happening. Millions of people are living it into being. Our common future hangs in the balance. — The New Economy | Living Economics Forum

Visit David Korten’s website Living Economies Forum. And follow his series on YES! Magazine.


The “new economy” represents an “emerging vision for a just, sustainable, and democratic future.” See What is the New Economy? and other articles on the website for The New Economy Coalition (NEC).

make America great

Some would have us believe that consumerism is the only way to fuel an economy. False! In fact, in order to meet the ecological challenges we now face, we simply cannot continue to consume at today’s alarming rates. The New Economics plays a crucial role in sustainable development.


Organizations around the world are working to advance a transition to this new economy. One such organization is the Schumacher Center for New Economics. Their stated mission:  “To educate the public about an economics that supports both people and the planet. We believe that a fair and sustainable economy is possible and that citizens working for the common interest can build systems to achieve it. We recognize that the environmental and equity crises we now face have their roots in the current economic system.”


Another organization, The International Institute for Sustainable Development, has an excellent website. In this video “IISD Associate Mark Anielski spells out the pitfalls of relying on gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of societal wealth. Anielski, an Edmonton-based economist, says that we need to measure the things that matter most to us to really understand how we’re doing. And by establishing a true national balance sheet and redefining progress, we can achieve greater well-being.” This is very worthwhile viewing. What Mark has to say is not only fascinating but (at least in my opinion) makes perfect sense.


Samuel Alexander has written extensively on what he calls “The Sufficiency Economy,” “Enough, For Everyone, Forever.” Check out his essay: The Sufficiency Economy: Envisioning a Prosperous Way Down. Here is an excerpt:

Rather than progress being seen as a movement toward ever-increasing material affluence, the sufficiency economy aims for a world in which everyone’s basic needs are modestly but sufficiently met, in an ecologically sustainable, highly localised, and socially equitable manner. When material sufficiency is achieved in these ways, further growth would not continue to be a priority. Instead, human beings would realise that they were free from the demands of continuous economic activity and could therefore dedicate more of their energies to non-materialistic pursuits, such as enjoying social relationships, connecting with nature, exploring the mysteries of the universe, or engaging in peaceful, creative activity of various sorts. How to spend this ‘freedom from want’ is the exhilarating and perhaps terrifying question all human beings would face in a well-established sufficiency economy, so defined.

The Takeaway

The new economy does for nations what the minimalist lifestyle does for individuals. Both put money in its place.


The goals of the new economy support the criteria that make nations great. It’s  time for America to embrace these goals, and adopting the new economy will help.


You can contribute by moving towards a minimalist lifestyle. And we all need tp get involved in the political actions that support a more just, more sustainable economy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *