Thursday, 12 April 2007

Cost efficiency vs quality of life

We are digging ourselves into a deeper and deeper hole, because we imagine (or politicians have conned us into believing) that quality of life is improved by having low taxes and all commodities as cheap as possible. The con' is that under low taxation, the poor get poorer and the rich get richer -- a gap that has widened significantly in my lifetime. Efficiency has become equated with cost. Just because it is cheaper for a council to privatise the street cleaning does not mean it is efficient. There are many ways of measuring efficiency, and in a wealthy society we should include quality of life and several other factors. It can be 'efficient' to cut down a mangove forest if you own it, because you can make a quick profit, and then reinvest in something else. But is this efficient for the rest of the inhabitants of the region, who then get swept away by the next tsunami?

I am constantly horrified at how cheap most commodities have become. Food, furniture, fabrics, electronics, travel -- you name it. Almost everything of this nature is getting ludicrously cheap. Compare real prices with real prices of 30 or 50 years ago. Luxury good have spiralled into the nether regions, with paintings by Damien Hirst commanding astronomical figures -- but the resource base of a painting may not be any greater than a single copy of a magazine. And while I am meandering, and prattling about resources, an article in 3rd Sector Magazine pointed out that charities are among the most wasteful users of paper and other resources. Charities involved in direct mailing (NOT the WLT I must emphasise) expect a 95% wastage -- that's a lot of paper, pens, and apparently other unwanted 'gifts' as well. But perhaps that's another story.......

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