There used to be a term for how well we were doing as individuals, families, communities and societies. It was called “welfare,” and referred to the overall well-being of the population. In fact, it was used in legislation preceding the British North America Act. In the BNA and eventually, our Constitution Act, the term was changed to “order” and became part of “peace, order and good government”. It defines an area of responsibility of the federal government (not often used).
We don’t have very good measures of how well we are doing. We get a lot of information about our problems, and rightly so. But it would be good to hear more about our progress. We know our average life span is increasing, although so far that seems to be because fewer of us die of childhood diseases or industrial accidents. We don’t know much about whether we are healthier or not. We know we are more educated. But we don’t know if we are making better choices in our lives. Do we have more or fewer disabilities?
We put a huge effort into helping people who have problems. Social assistance programs, tax credits, emergency services like food banks, social housing, a huge array of community services. We employ billions of dollars, millions of employees, and millions of volunteers. We don’t know much about what we accomplish.
We tend to measure how much money is being spent rather than results. We seldom set any goals to achieve or to measure our progress.
It might be interesting to have the federal government recover that term and produce a report on our progress in welfare.