Champlain College

Riane Eisler and Nancy Folbre, Two Long-Haulers for Change


Riane Eisler's ground-breaking big-picture history, The Chalice and The Blade (1987), has influenced a whole generation of women. Fewer women have read her book, The Real Wealth of Nations (2007), the title a play on words that Adam Smith made famous in his 1776 economic tome, The Wealth of Nations. I used her economic book as part of seminar I taught at Vermont College, and just last summer was invited to present  with her at a Vermont "Womanomics" conference--and then she endorsed my book, Screwnomics!

I come from a long line of women accountants—and in my book I talk about the need to adjust our national accounting system.  Right now the GDP measures only one item: dollars. It is only an "income" statement, adding up every dollar exchanging hands. By GDP's reckoning, natural disasters are a windfall, costing Americans in insurance payouts, reconstruction, legal settlements and fines, and environmental cleanup, driving up the GDP! 

Is that a good thing? No, we need a balance sheet, that shows us more accurately our real costs and real benefits. In Screwnomics I mention GPI (Genuine Progress Indicators) now adopted by two states, Maryland and Vermont, though only Maryland updates figures annually.

I also talk about the GNH, or Gross National Happiness measurements, more serious than they sound, first adopted by Bhutan, and promoted here in the US by a movement begun by my Vermont friends Ginny Sassaman and Paula Francis.

We also should consider Riane Eisler's important new measurements, created in collaboration with Eisler's Center for Partnership Studies, and economist Nancy Folbre, who has long written about the unpaid work at the heart of any economy. Their Social Wealth Economic Indicators (SWEI, pronounced "sway") actually seek to show how respecting and strengthening our rich, social connections at home and in our communities actually RESULTS in better economic-dollar outcomes. Then even our rather stupid GDP would be able to see it.

Eisler and Folbre actually presented together in 2013 at a conference sponsored by Champlain College and UVM's Gund Institute. You can watch it here.

Such measurements of what now remains invisible—our persistent love and attention to what really matters—should be part of women's Economic#MeToo movement! Let's SWEI with national happiness! —Rickey Gard Diamond