The poverty of satisfaction


Came across this 1968 speech by Robert. F. Kennedy, courtesy of Michael Sandel's book.


Even if we act to erase material poverty, there is another greater task. It is to confront the poverty of satisfaction... and that afflicts us all... the mere accumulation of things.


Kennedy then expands on what he means by the poverty of satisfaction.


Our Gross National Product now is over 800 billion dollars a year. But that Gross National Product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for the people who break them. It counts the destruction of the redwood and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and counts nuclear warheads and armoured cars for the police to fight the riots in our cities. It counts... the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

Yet the Gross National Product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage, neither our wisdom nor our learning, neither our compassion nor our devotion... It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.


Regardless of adaption and slightly differing frameworks for our own country across the Atlantic, the point still remains. This speech is as relevant today as when it was given in 1968 (3 months before his assassination). There is a different way of measuring what is of worth - and that is a call worth putting into practice.

Andy Smithymanquotes, article