Bobby Kennedy and General Well-Being

So often, champions of the idea that governments should measure national well-being use this famous quote from Robert Kennedy to support the policy:

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things...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 to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

But clearly, Kennedy is not saying we should, therefore, find a new statistical measurement to enshrine as a new god and ultimate goal. After all, how could statistics ever quantify the joy of children's play, or the beauty of our poetry, or the intelligence of public debate, or our wit, courage, compassion or patriotism?

We have taken what was a warning on the limits of statistical measurement, and interpreted it as an argument to expand the scope of statistics.