Consider these two very different thoughts on the value of measuring and making quantitative the unseen:
Measuring, by its nature, requires me to pay attention to every portion. Measuring forms a container for my longings and boundaries for my lust. Without boundaries, I cannot find balance. Without limits, I cannot hope to be free....Measuring is empowering and measuring is enslaving. What is being measured? Why? Does the measurement accurately correspond to the concept we're attempting to measure? Is GDP/capita or the poverty headcount development? Are inputs aid? Is BMI health? Is years of schooling education or square feet per person housing? These are not new questions, but they deserve to be asked and pondered occasionally. As Aid Thoughts brilliantly put it: "The evidence never lies. Unless the synthetic categories we create to compartmentalize and analyze the human world distort or misinterpret the world."
In our culture, the number on the scale enforces a cruel hierarchy. Weight separates the worthy from the unworthy. But the truth is, it's difficult to be in a body, period. Witnessing this in myself and in others, I've begun to see through the delusion so many of us share -- that when we reach a particular weight, we will automatically be happy.
The process of economic development is not easy, in part because it 1) gives us liberty to consider and 2) makes it more imperative that we consider other tensions:
Weight can obscure many things, including lust, sadness, loneliness, anxiety, and anger. As I lose weight and my buffer loosens, I am forced to grapple with these states more directly.Might the experiences in the Middle East be trying to tell us: "Income poverty can obscure many things, including marginalization, inequality, lack of opportunity, racial and religious tensions, entrenched interests, and poor governance. As economic growth occurs and our constraints loosen, we are forced to grapple with these conditions more directly."
Progress in any area of life, if it is real progress that loosens the constraints that have bound us, forces us to meet other binding constraints that we may not have acknowledged. Personal and economic development is not for the faint of heart.