The Economy Street Art Project

An amazing piece of cause-based guerrilla art, called The Economy, created by an anonymous designer.  These stickers, placed throughout various public spaces, are meant to draw attention to the fact that GDP, our primary measure of abundance as a society, is an overly-simplistic, if not, downright irrelevant measurement of our prosperity.   I’ve talked about this in several posts, but I think Haque’s recent ebook, Betterness, sums up the dilemma we are facing as a society, rather nicely.  And, yes, when crime goes up, it benefits us economically.  When people are unhealthy, it benefits us economically, bearing in mind “us” is being used loosely here.

Adam Butler, of The Butler Brothers, sat down with the creator and asked him a few questions about the project.

So what spurred you to do this?

The source of many of my projects comes from a growing unease with how politicians (on both sides) create narratives to fit their agenda. We’re told what’s important, and why. At the end of the day, we actually believe that we have opinions. In this case, I was struck by the framing of any policy argument that it was “good” or it was “bad” for the economy. Rather, I’d like, just once, for us to make decisions based on what’s good for people. We are, after all, people. (Sorry, I keep forgetting that corporations are people, too).

Regardless of your intentions, do you feel like you changed anything with this series?

No. Yes. Maybe. I have such an overwhelming sense that we’re heading in the wrong direction. And I don’t mean this from a political leadership standpoint, but as a society. We. Us. We’re heading the wrong way. We measure GDP, but not happiness. We think we’re number one, but really, that’s just in average number of hours worked per week … we work the most of any industrialized country. Hooray.

We need to start defining prosperity in a new, broader (and also more specific) range of ways.  Economically, people are working harder and harder and yet, key outputs like jobs, net worth and net profit are shrinking.  This is because we need to re-evaluate what it means to ‘profit’ as a business to move beyond merely focusing on quarterly earnings.  In addition, how businesses (and our government) see themselves creating ‘wealth’ needs to evolve to more human-centric measures with outcomes that make us fitter, happier, healthier, truer, humbler, wiser, more educated, etc.

Overall, a great project that sums this mess up very succinctly.

[via @HSchum and Fast Co.Exist]


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