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 Response Page - Stern  Interview -      
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These comments are responses to the statements listed below,
which were generated in regard to the
Scott Stern  Interview of
06-20-2014.
 

Can social progress enhance a society’s ability to compete economically?

OVERVIEW

According to MIT's Scott Stern, coauthor of The Social Progress Index 2014, the study's key finding is that economic development is not sufficient to explain a country's social progress outcomes and GDP per capita is an incomplete measure of a country's overall performance. The Index shows, Stern says, that on average, social progress outcomes are better as GDP per capita increases. But that doesn't necessarily hold for many advanced economies, where there can be big gaps between a country's ranking on GDP per capita and its ranking on social progress. Another important finding of the study is that there is no direct, tightly linked correlation between publicly funded inputs, such as education spending or health spending, and social progress outcomes.

Stern points out that the social dimensions of people's lives and whether or not those are improving have not been measured and understood nearly as well as the economic dimensions. The Social Progress Index 2014, he explains,takes a rigorous look beyond traditional measures of economic development and GDP in 132 countries in order to understand the relationship between economic progress and social progress.

For the study, social progress is defined as the capacity of a society (1) to meet the basic human needs of its citizens, (2) to establish the building blocks that allow citizens to enhance and sustain the quality of their lives, and (3) to create the conditions for all individuals to reach their full potential. The authors divide these three broad dimensions into components that could be systematically calculated and compared across countries.

New Zealand, Switzerland and Iceland ranked first, second and third in their total scores on the social progress measures. The United States ranked 16th, higher than France (20th), but lower than Germany (12th), the United Kingdom (13th), Japan (14th) and Ireland (15th). Brazil ranked 46th, Russia 80th and China 90th. Chad (132nd) came in at the bottom of the rankings.

For the complete interview summary see: Stern interview

Response Summary: Average response ratings shown below are simply the mean of all readers’ zero-to-ten responses to the ideas proposed and should not be considered an accurate reflection of a scientifically structured poll.

To assist the Civic Caucus in planning upcoming interviews, readers rated these statements about the topic on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

1. Topic is of value. (8.8 average response) The interview summarized today provides valuable information or insight.

2. Further study warranted. (7.6 average response) It would be helpful to schedule additional interviews on this topic.

Readers rated the following points discussed during the meeting on a scale of 0 (strongly disagree) to 5 (neutral) to 10 (strongly agree): 

3. Economic data alone is insufficient. (8.7 average response) Measuring economic development alone is an incomplete way to compare nations’ relative success, because the comparison fails to reflect social progress.

4. Social progress index gives key insight. (7.9 average response) A newly developed social progress index that includes measurements of basic human needs, foundations of wellbeing, and opportunity, gives a better picture of overall prosperity.

5. Effect of spending on social progress. (6.2 average response) It is surprising that the developers of the index find no direct correlation between more government spending and better social progress.

6. US ranking unexpected. (3.6 average response) It is surprising that the index places the United States no higher than 16th on overall social progress.

7. Some states might rank higher. (8.2 average response) If state-by-state or regional data for the United States were included, some parts of the nation would likely rank above some smaller nations that now rank higher than the entire US.

Response Distribution:

Strongly disagree

Moderately disagree

Neutral

Moderately agree

Strongly agree

Total Responses

1. Topic is of value.

0%

0%

15%

23%

62%

13

2. Further study warranted.

0%

8%

15%

46%

31%

13

3. Economic data alone is insufficient.

0%

0%

15%

23%

62%

13

4. Social progress index gives key insight.

0%

8%

23%

15%

54%

13

5. Effect of spending on social progress.

8%

15%

23%

31%

23%

13

6. US ranking unexpected.

23%

31%

31%

8%

8%

13

7. Some states might rank higher.

0%

0%

15%

46%

38%

13

Individual Responses:

Bruce Lundeen (10) (7.5) (7.5) (5) (10) (5) (10)

Dave Broden (10) (7.5) (10) (7.5) (5) (5) (5)

1. Topic is of value. A significant look at the connection and commonality of economic and social factors and interaction in a changing world — applies to local state issues and approaches as well.

2. Further study warranted. We need to consider both economic and social factors in all discussion and this speaker helped us to establish an approach to this need and consideration.

3. Economic data alone is insufficient. Concur strongly. The bottom line is opportunity for all and requires not only economic progress but also social factors-- education, environment, housing, etc.

4. Social progress index gives key insight. A metric or measure is always valid provided the quality of the metric and data used is complete, well thought out and accurate and can be tracked to common factors in multiple locations.

5. Effect of spending on social progress. The fact that they found no link between funding and social progress is a great result. Far too often the only thought is to solve the issue by funding more. With a bit of thought most problems can be moved forward without more funding -- just define a better way to approach the issue and then decide if more or less money is needed.

6. US ranking unexpected. This gets to the point of what is included in the social progress metrics- the factors, the database, etc.

7. Some states might rank higher. See answer to item 6 above.

Dane Smith (10) (10) (10) (10) (5) (0) (10)

Phil Kinnunen (7.5) (5) (7.5) (2.5) (10) (0) (7.5)

5. Effect of spending on social progress. There should not have been any surprise here, more government involvement in people's lives only leads to higher taxes and more people whose job it is to try figure out how to keep the government growing. The government is for the people, not the people for the government.

6. US ranking unexpected. This also should not have been a surprise, in the last thirty years or so, in the effort to become "Global", "One world", the United States has compromised its edge by trying to "level the playing field". Life is not fair. Completion makes people stronger. The more people have to work for what they get, and the rewards for that work are great, the more and harder they will work. The world will always have poor people and those that need help, but through proper education, both through colleges, vocational education and competition, the percentage of those needing help will be reduced.

Michael Martens (10) (10) (7.5) (5) (5) (2.5) (7.5)

2. Further study warranted. Only Canada and Australia in the 1st tier are large countries. The other 8 are small countries with homogeneous populations. None of the 10 countries has large immigrant populations. This suggests there is a bias in the methodology against large countries, countries with large poor immigrants populations and countries that are ethnically, racially [and] religiously diverse.

4. Social progress index gives key insight. Given how vague some of the top-level areas are like, [e.g.], 2c Health & wellness 2d Ecosystem sustainability 3c Tolerance & inclusion, etc., I wonder how the authors were able to determine objective criteria for measuring these variables.

5. Effect of spending on social progress. This is surprising only if one assumes that government spending is spent evenly across all residents of the country. For example on most measures of educational spending and achievement, MN scores high or very high compared to other states, but Minneapolis & St. Paul have the largest achievement gap between blacks & whites of any major city in the US.

6. US ranking unexpected. This is not surprising to me. It is surprising the US is that high .

Don Anderson (5) (5) (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5)

1. Topic is of value. I am glad that social progress is finally recognized as an impact on economic prosperity.

Jim Olson (10) (7.5) (5) (10) (7.5) (7.5) (10)

Kevin Edberg (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (2.5) (2.5) (10)

1. Topic is of value. I appreciate the effort to take on non-economic aspects of development.

2. Further study warranted. This brings additional perspective to the larger question of how we can lead better lives, and give to future generations even greater opportunities for meaningful lives for more and more people.

3. Economic data alone is insufficient. Agree. Though incompletely understood, this kind of discussion makes our conversations richer and more robust.

5. Effect of spending on social progress. It perhaps shows the complex nature of human capital, and the things that increase human capital. As I have commented before, "tolerance" as a social attribute builds and attracts human capital in interesting ways.

6. US ranking unexpected. Nope, no surprise there. Part of the American mythology is that we are the greatest. More like hubris. We have much to appreciate, much to be grateful for, and even more to still learn.

7. Some states might rank higher. Yes.

Scott Halstead (10) (7.5) (10) (10) (2.5) (5) (10)

2. Further study warranted. Should this be incorporated into the U. S. Census?

7. Some states might rank higher. Perhaps state rankings should play a role in government support to States and how funds may be utilized.

Charles Denny (10) (10) (10) (10) (7.5) (0) (7.5)

6. US ranking unexpected. International polls have constantly found the United States lacking in social progress.

Tom Spitznagle (5) (3) (5) (5) (0) (3) (7)

Vici Oshiro (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

Did not read the whole thing, but this is one of several suggested changes in how we measure ourselves and seems quite complete and valuable. This is particularly important now because growth is becoming more of a problem than a solution although you'd not hear that from some of my favorite talking heads, e.g., Charlie Rose.

GDP = Grossly Distorted Picture.

Tom Abeles (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na) (na)

The SPI has been of interest to many since it is the first real quantitative index to go beyond the limited GDP. Several states in the US have adopted these metrics. And there have been conferences in the US while I have been in Rwanda.

I am working with some folks to carry out a Delphi analysis and would like to get the funding to have Joel Barker do an implications wheel for this.

The issue is that main stream neo-classical economists write this off along with the "happiness index" and the heterodox economists are struggling with legitimacy and have enough problems on their plate.

If the Civic Caucus would look towards going beyond "that is interesting" this might move things forward.

Bright Dornblaser (8) (8) (10) (10) (8) (1) (5)

Chuck Lutz (9) (8) (10) (10) (7) (5) (9)

    

The Civic Caucus   is a non-partisan, tax-exempt educational organization.   The Interview Group  includes persons of varying political persuasions,
reflecting years of leadership in politics and business. Click here  to see a short personal background of each.

  John S. Adams, David Broden, Audrey Clay, Janis Clay, Pat Davies, Bill Frenzel, Paul Gilje (coordinator), Randy Johnson, Sallie Kemper, Ted Kolderie, Dan Loritz (chair),
Tim McDonald, Bruce Mooty, John Mooty, Jim Olson, Paul Ostrow, Wayne Popham, Dana Schroeder, Clarence Shallbetter, and Fred Zimmerman


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Dan Loritz, chair, 612-791-1919   ~   Paul A. Gilje, coordinator, 952-890-5220.

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