Marilyn Waring is someone you should know

by David Week on 05 December 2010

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Marilyn Waring

At last, thanks to the National Film Board of Canada, this classic doco on my favourite feminist economist is now available for viewing online. In 1975, at the age of 23, she became the youngest MP in the New Zealand Parliament. As a member of the National Party, she famously (or infamously) crossed the floor on the question of allowing nuclear powered ships into New Zealand waters. (She was against it.)

As an MP, she served as Chair of the Public Expenditures Committee. As a non-economist she felt free to ask “dumb” questions, like “What’s the GDP?” and “Why is it important?” The inadequacy and incompleteness of the answers she received led her to do a PhD in political economy. Through this she learned about the “production boundary”, which determines what gets counted in the GDP, and what doesn’t. The PhD was worked into a book: Counting for Nothing: What Men Value And What Women Are Worth. John Kenneth Galbraith called it “an overdue antidote to badly flawed assumptions.” Gloria Steinem said she “puts human beings and human values into economics.”

Have you ever wondered:

  • why the wrecking of the Exxon Valdez, through the lawsuits and cleanups it “produced”, added billions of dollars to the GDP
  • while the work of millions of women at home, producing the next generation of humankind, adds nothing?

To find out, watch this extraordinary story, told by an extraordinary female human being.

Who’s Counting? Marilyn Waring on Sex, Lies and Economics

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