What makes a good society? A case study on Greece | Michael Green | TEDxThessaloniki

Translator: Cristina Bufi-Pöcksteiner
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney What makes a good society? How do I know if my country, my region, my city, is a good society? When we ask that question, the answer we get back
often comes in a monetary term, measured in terms of Gross
Domestic Product, or GDP. We often find that our media,
our politicians, will tell us: “The economy is growing;
our lives are getting better.” But we know the GDP is flawed.
GDP can be misleading. Wars and natural disasters
are good for GDP, but doesn’t sound
much like progress to me. GDP is also incomplete. GDP has nothing to say
about the environment. GDP is blind to issues
of fairness and justice. GDP is not a good measure
of whether we have a good society. For some people, the answer
is something different: it’s happiness. It’s quite easy to measure happiness: you can send out
surveys to the population, ask them how satisfied
they are with their lives, and come back and come up with a score. But is a happy society a good society? And don’t get me wrong, I like
being happy, I’m sure you do, too. But is happiness really
what it means to be a good society? The British philosopher, John Stuart Mill,
famously posed the question: “Surely it is better to be Socrates
dissatisfied than a pig satisfied?” And I think it’s a really important point. It’s good to be happy, but happiness is
not a complete measure of a good society. For an answer to this question,
I’ll turn to a different philosopher, one who was writing 2,500 years ago, Yes, you’ve guessed it,
he’s from Greece. I’m talking of course about Aristotle. He talked a lot about
what it means to live a good life, and the importance
of us making virtuous choices. But in order to make those choices, he said that society must create
the preconditions to do so. For him a good society
was one that created the conditions for what he called “eudaimonia”, what is normally translated into English
as “flourishing”, or “thriving”. That to me sounds like a very good definition
of what it means to be a good society, one in which individuals
are flourishing and thriving. I’m pleased to say that I’m here today to tell you that my colleagues
and I have been working out a way to measure how much our societies
promote flourishing and thriving. I’m here to share with you
the results for Greece. The measure we have is called
the Social Progress Index, which asks three fundamental
questions about any society. First, are the basic needs of survival
of every individual being met? Food, water, shelter, safety. Secondly, does everyone
have the building blocks of a better life? Education, information, health,
and a sustainable environment? Finally, does every individual
have the opportunity to pursue their hopes and dreams? With rights, freedom of choice,
freedom from discrimination, and access to the world’s
most advanced knowledge? Using 50 different indicators, we bring
together all these different factors to create a score for a society
on a scale from zero to 100. Let me show you the results,
I’ll show you one on this chart. What I have done is I’ve put
social progress on the vertical axis, higher is better. Then just for comparison,
just for fun, I’ve put GDP per capita. The country in the world with the highest
social progress is … Norway. Norway scores 88 out of 100;
not perfect, but the highest in the world. And the country
with the least social progress, I’m sorry to say is Central
African Republic, with a score 31. Greece is somewhere in the middle
between those two scores. Where? I’m pleased to say
a lot closer to Norway than Central African Republic. Greece scores 74 out of 100
on social progress. What does that mean? Let’s give you some context
in terms of some of your neighbours. Bulgaria and Romania
are slightly lower on social progress, they’re also lower on GDP. Italy and Spain are higher
on social progress, and also a bit higher on GDP. You also might look at, says countries
like Poland in Central Europe, these tend to have
a very similar GDP to Greece, but slightly higher social progress. That’s sort of how Greece is doing,
in the middle of a pack. But we can actually drill down further. My colleagues and I have been working with the Regional Policy Director
of the European Commission, to produce a social progress index
for the Regions of the EU. In Euro speech this is called
the NUTS 2 Regions; there are 272 of them, and we’ve created a Social Progress Index
comparing all of these; and here we are. Here’s on the same chart
social progress on the vertical axis, GDP per capita on the horizontal axis. Each of the Regions of the EU
are represented by a dot. I want to make two
general observations first. I’m going to put in now
the regression curve that shows the average relationship
between GDP and social progress. We do actually see, that, as societys get richer,
social progress does tend to increase. but we also see that there’s
lots of noise around the trend line. Simply put, GDP is not destiny. Other choices really matter in determining
our level of social progress. The second thing to notice: the countries that are above the line
are the ones that are over-performing, they’re the ones doing a good job in turning their economic resources
into social progress. The countries below the line
are those underperforming, not doing such a good job
at turning their wealth into well-being. How’s Greece doing? We zoom into a certain part of the chart
where we’ll find the regions of Greece. Zoom zoom. Here we are. Which region of Greece
has the highest social progress? It is … Crete. The second highest is Northern Aegean, the third highest is Central Macedonia. That was complete rubbish.
You’re supposed to cheer! (Applause) No, no, no; we’re doing
this one again, OK? (Laughter) Now hush, then when I say this, you cheer. Nice and simple as this, OK,
just follow the instructions. The third highest is Central Macedonia. (Applause) (Cheers) What you’re probably starting to notice
is that these are not necessarily the most economically developed
regions of Greece. In fact, the three richest regions, Attica, Southern Aegean,
and Western Macedonia, all score lower on social progress. Let me pop in all the regions of Greece and what we see is that Epirus,
the poorest region of Greece, has quite a high level of social progress. The Peloponnese has
the lowest level of social progress, but it isn’t the poorest region. GDP per capita actually
isn’t a good predictor of how well the regions of Greece
are performing on social progress. What we can do now is drill in
a bit further into this data, and look at how
the different regions of Greece are performing on the different aspects
of social progress. Let me start in the area
we call Basic Human Needs: the food, water, shelter, safety stuff. There’s actually some good news here which is most regions of Greece
are clustered pretty tightly around the curve. They’re performing close to the average,
with one exception as you can see: Attica. This is very interesting, because this is actually a pattern
we see in other capital regions: in my city, London;
in Brussels, the capital of Europe. These capital regions
seem to have high GDP, but aren’t able to convert those resources
into meeting the needs of the population much better than other regions. I don’t know why, but I think it’s
an interesting question for policy makers in those kinds of regions, and asks important questions
about how they’re using their resources. That’s basic human needs. The next dimension
is Foundations of Well-Being. The story here is not so good. We’ve got a couple of regions
above the line, but actually most Greek regions
are below the line, they’re underperforming on this issue. What’s driving this? It was a couple of things. First of all, every single Greek region underperforms on the area
of access to basic knowledge. It seems that the basic education
schooling system is not performing as well as it should be. That’s what the data says. The second area, where all the regions
of Greece are underperforming, is on access to information
and communications: Internet, mobile phones, etc. Again, that’s an interesting finding:
every region is underperforming there. There’s also some good news here,
and it’s actually about Epirus. This region of Greece has far and way
the highest score on health and wellness. It’s the poorest region of Greece,
but it achieves the best health outcomes. I don’t know why, you’ll have to tell me;
I think this is a very important finding, because if we can find out
what Epirus is doing right, then those lessons can actually be shared
with other regions of Greece, and other regions of the EU. The third dimension is opportunity. Here, I’m sad to say,
we get the most negative story. Every region of Greece
is underperforming on opportunity. This is about trust in the police,
trust in the legal institutions, corruption, discrimination,
gender equality. It’s a very, very strong finding,
and a real issue of concern. By the way, analysing the data, we see a very strong relationship
between opportunity and life satisfaction. Having low school opportunities
is not good for making you happy, if that’s what you care about. That’s a bit of a sad result,
so let me finish with a bit good news, which is that, within opportunities
there is one component, which is access to advanced knowledge. Here, it’s a better story. A very wide range of scores
for the regions of Greece, but actually the majority of them
are above the line. And I’m very pleased to see that actually Central Macedonia
performs particularly well. (Applause) Ladies and gentlemen,
our world is on the move. Where it goes to, is our decision. The Social Progress Index
shows us that we’re not slaves to GDP, or anonymous economic forces. Our choices matter. Let’s choose to live in good societies, where everyone has the opportunity
not just to survive, but to thrive. Thank you. (Applause)

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