Wednesday, May 23 at 7:30 pm
by Terre Nash
Marilyn Waring is the author of a book on women in the world economy entitled: “If Women Counted.” To this day it offers a persuasive and vivid argument against endless economic growth. At age 22 Marilyn became the youngest member of the New Zealand Parliament. She chaired the prestigious Public Expenditures Committee and became familiar with the Gross Domestic Product system and decided to disclose its pathologies in a film. The film traces her quest to explore how the fate of women and of the earth are irrevocably tied up with the deadly pursuit of economic growth.
Good-humoredly, Marilyn skewers the official view of things: “As long as the activity passes through the market, it’s good for growth.” Marilyn and, through her, Director Terre Nash, address the “invisibility of women’s work,” which goes unpaid and is officially “of little or no importance,” referring to postwar rules that the international economic system imposes on all countries through the U.N. System of National Accounts. We hear Marilyn’s voice in the film: “Important decisions are made with these GNP figures, decisions which will determine whose needs are met first, decisions on how to spend your tax dollars, decisions on killing the planet, decisions on who will live or die…. This system cannot respond to values it refuses to recognize. It is the cause of massive poverty, illness, and the death of millions of women and children, and it is encouraging environmental disaster. This is an economic system that can eventually kill us all.” They say that growth will solve the financial crisis. GDP was invented by J.M. Keynes for Britain during WWII to pay for the war. Now it is a mandatory accounting formula used by all nations. GDP counts only cash transactions, giving no value to peace and the environment. This means there is no value to peace, to the preservation of the environment, and no value to unpaid work. The GDP system leaves out half the population of the planet and the planet itself.
Marilyn Waring is a vocal critic of the standard cost-benefit analysis of labor and productivity. Her consideration of unpaid female labor throughout the world, which is officially discounted as being “nonproductive” in as much as it generates no capital gain, no “growth” to the economy. Waring’s argument, however, is holistic rather than gender-partisan, surveying a wide range of matters, including the “productivity” that wars generate, through the prism of the dismissal of the value of women’s work at home. This official view, she and Director Terre Nash contend, is nuts. Who’s Counting? The question holds a double meaning, referring to who fixes value, according to what set of priorities, and to who and what in this scheme is being “counted” as having value or not. Marilyn Waring’s work and intriguing life is described in this eye-opening documentary film.
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