Wellbeing and progress: from measurement to action

A full day of talks were scheduled at the University of Canberra on this topic on 7 December. I was able to attend the first three presentations before other appointments came piling in. Jacki Shirmer of the University of Canberra began proceedings by talking about UC’s Regional Wellbeing Survey, and about the importance of collaboration between academics, policymakers and citizens. Mike Salvaris, of ANDI Limited, spoke about the Australian National Development Index, ANDI. He argued strongly that progress is a democratic issue, and that the current measure of choice, the GDP, has lots of problems associated with it. Nicolas Gruen of Lateral Economics spoke about his index of wellbeing, the HALE (Herald Age Lateral Economics). His particular concern was incommensurability. This could be solved in many ways, ranging from weighting all items equally to constructing do-it-yourself weights, but all with different pros and cons. His best line was: “do we want to be approximately right, or precisely wrong?” A very statistical poser!

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