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GDP’s Wicked Spell

The difficulty lies, not in the new ideas, but in escaping from the old ones, which ramify, for those brought up as most of us have been, into every corner of our minds.—John Maynard Keynes

Most important political debates today happen in a bubble defined by a common assumption: Economic growth is good. More than good, it is essential. Economic health, success of governments, importance of education, meaning of life, the very idea of progress — you name it, pundits from right to left argue inside the bubble.In newspapers of record, on TV and radio, in blogs and tweets, the refrain remains the same. Economic growth is described in terms reminiscent of a sermon to the faithful, “as if it were handed down from god on tablets of stone,” as Michael Green of the Social Progress Imperative put it. Confident consumers engage in strong spending that leads to robust growth, all resulting in a healthy economy.

Of course economies don’t grow like trees or little children. What do we mean by economic growth? It is an important question. It is almost never asked. The answer surprised me as much as others who have explored it: The way growth is measured around the world depicts the amount of production and consumption. It does not measure useful activity or human development. It does not measure sustainability. In fact, the well-being of the planet is entirely absent. The possibility for future generations to thrive once we’re gone is not a line item in our accounts of economic success.

Source: GDP’s Wicked Spell – The Chronicle Review – The Chronicle of Higher Education

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CONVERSATIONS

  1. It is indeed a matter of common assumption. It is also what is reflected in the sign that hung above the desk of Thomas Alva Edison at Menlo Park. The sign contained the words of Sir Joshua Reynolds, “There is no expedient to which a man will not resort to avoid the real labor of thinking.”
    Outthink!

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