Mentalism overtaking Materialism

According to official statistics, the GDPs of all G7 developed nations have been trending flat, even downward, over the last decade and more

The big question is whether, at the turn of the century, the G7 reached a watershed between their old 20th century materialist economies and the new 21st century mentalist economies – the former focused on the production of tangible stuff, the improvement of our SoL (Standard of Living) and the minimising of the negatives of life – the latter focuses on intangibles, the creation of stuff which improves our QoL (Quality of Living) and maximises the positives of our life

Consider how outputs and inputs have changed over this period


The problem here is our official bean-counters have no appropriate measures for the new mentalism world and continue to collect statistics appropriate only to the old materialist world – one where GDP either clocked the private sector’s output of tangible stuff which had a price, or the public sector’s costs which were assumed to be the value of their output

Manufacturing dominated economies (80% plus) for most of the 20th century and output value was relatively easy to count – GDP totals were thus assumed to paint a reasonably accurate picture of the state of entire developed economies 

However, by the end of the 20th century, major changes had occurred – manufacturing’s share of developed economies fell to around 20% and has continued to trend downwards – at the same time, ‘relatively-difficult-to-measure’ service sectors grew to over 80%

Now we’re well into the new 21st century – instead of just buying stuff which helps remove the chores of life and makes our lives more comfortable, many of us now have ‘enough‘ – we don’t need another car, house or pair of shoes – we just replace them when worn out – there’s nothing fundamentally new to buy to add to them now most have an iPhone – so we’ve moved on to seek ‘higher level’ things which we enjoy doing such as socialising with friends and family, playing games and sports, developing hobbies or being entertained

The problem is such latter ‘higher things’, whilst valued highly by us are often available for free and hence are not clocked by the official GDP bean-counters

Inevitably, some geek has come up with a new collective noun for all this new stuff – consumer surpli – aka unmeasurable intangibles i.e. the extras, including freebies, on offer to customers by the likes of Google, Skype and Facebook to attract valuable personal preference information from us which they sell on to companies seeking to target those of us most likely to buy from them – and such consumer surpli comprise an ever-increasing proportion of the value created by national economies but are also totally missed by their GDP numbers

The same change in values has already occurred with private businesses – if in any doubt, note how the most valuable companies nowadays are ones which are tangibles poor Coca Cola, Apple or Google for example – overall, some 80% of stock market values are now based on intangible assets, so the financial markets and investors are already up to speed

Sadly, at present, we’re stuck with official GDP data which presents a gloomy failing picture for most developed nations – in particular:

  • We knew the base data was already seriously flawed, being so full of errors, assumptions and forecasts – now we know much that we value is being ignored
  • We also know G7 experts, economists and media all announce there is a productivity puzzle because their GDP and productivity (GDP/ Labour) growth has apparently stalled over the last decade or so
  • And yet government ministers are reliant on these statistics to decide their economic policies and different ways to tax us
  • The consumer surplus is the biggest economic elephant in their room


G7 bean-counters thus must at least recognise the failings of their current measures and gear up for these fundamental economic changes


And it’s not just outputs where big changes have occurred

Once, most people went to work for the pay alone – work was a chore they had to do, something they would not do if not paid – and most work was brawnwork, few opportunities were available for brainwork

Now, already, quite the reverse applies – most brawnwork that was dirty, dangerous, dull or repetitive has been automated with robots, AI  or computer software – most has been replaced by more interesting jobs involving considerable, if not total, brainwork:

  • Brawnwork required numbers of workers ‘clocking-in’ for numbers of hours on the factory floor or in the office – such numbers were easily countable and thus controllable by local managers 
  • Brainwork is different, and far less controllable – it requires individuals to produce results by deadlines – it requires problem solving, creativity, analysis skills and decisiveness – it thus requires individuals who are well trained but also motivated, ’employee engagement’ being the buzzword for the latter


Indeed, modern managers have become increasingly concerned to maximise employee engagement to boost overall productivity levels – they do this also to maximise staff retention, especially of staff they cannot afford to lose, and so minimise the extra costs of recruitment, training and short term work disruption

Essentially, this means:

  • Re job design – they seek to inject more interest, variety, control and responsibility into jobs – to make them seem more like hobbies, something they’d want to do for no pay, and even work endlessly at – even get people to look forward to Monday mornings, not dread them
  • Re individuals – they show genuine interest in their staff, talking face-to-face with them often – they also train them not only so they are more efficient at their work but become more promotable and can climb ladders


We’re not there yet – the following describes the current situation in most organisations:

  • Being seen in the office working long hours is deemed essential for holding on to a job – input hours still rate more than results achieved with most managers – presenteeism still outweighs individual productivity 
  • Over 90% would not do their job if they were not paid
  • Most don’t enjoy what they do and would resign immediately if they won the lottery
  • Most don’t rate their immediate boss
  • Most would love to run their own business and be their own boss


But changes to working conditions are increasingly being made or considered, including the following: 

  • Flexi-time working, working from home, four day working weeks
  • Dress-down days
  • Gig work – zero hours contracts (some people prefer this, some do not)
  • Appointing mentors
  • Free healthcare insurance, gyms, yoga classes, massage parlours
  • Office games rooms, nap rooms, healthy lunches


Such changes all have a part to play but more radical change is needed, addressing the following issues:

  • How to make jobs become paid hobbies – just as many footballers would continue to play, even if not paid
  • How to allow people to work from wherever they want, whenever they want
  • How to let people feel they are their own boss 
  • How to make work feel like being a member of a social club – a place to meet and chat with lots of different like-minded chums



  • G7 economies are changing big-time at present but official statisticians are not noticing
  • Hence, official ‘doom and gloom’ economic pictures do not paint the real world out there
  • Modern managers can no longer manage their troops using old ‘command and control’ methods – they must ensure their troops enjoy their work if they are to get the best results out of them 

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