Measuring the Quality of Life

Measuring the Quality of Life

The phrase “quality of life” seems to defy definition. As the battle cry of the ecology movement, it has acquired a multitude of connotations. Yet an attempt is underway not only to define but to measure the quality of life— an attempt that may greatly influence the direction of future government activity.

The attempt to measure the quality of life is motivated by the increasingly complex problems of government planning and regulation of industry. Within the broad bounds set by Congress, the nation’s priorities are cQntinually being ordered by the agencies of the executive branch. When, for example, a new standard of air quality is formulated, a number of conflicting interests must be considered. The benefit of clean air must be weighed not only against the cost of pollution-control devices but also against the cost of the increased unemployment resulting when higher costs force industries to employ fewer workers. Choosing a route for a new highway or mass-transit link, determining the entrance fee for a new national park, or choosing the size of a new public school are similarly much more than “technical” decisions.

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Duggan | University of California Press Gardels