Skip to main content

Cookies and Privacy

We use cookies to improve your experience on our website. To find out more, read our updated Cookie policy, Privacy policy and Terms & Conditions

stiglitz116_Jonathan Kitchen Jonathan Kitchen

GDP Fetishism

Striving to revive the global economy while simultaneously responding to the global climate crisis has raised a knotty question: are statistics giving us the right “signals” about what to do? The big question concerns whether GDP provides a good measure of living standards.

NEW YORK – Striving to revive the world economy while simultaneously responding to the global climate crisis has raised a knotty question: are statistics giving us the right “signals” about what to do? In our performance-oriented world, measurement issues have taken on increased importance: what we measure affects what we do.

If we have poor measures, what we strive to do (say, increase GDP) may actually contribute to a worsening of living standards. We may also be confronted with false choices, seeing trade-offs between output and environmental protection that don’t exist. By contrast, a better measure of economic performance might show that steps taken to improve the environment are good for the economy.

Eighteen months ago, French President Nicolas Sarkozy established an international Commission on the Measurement of Economic Performance and Social Progress, owing to his dissatisfaction – and that of many others – with the current state of statistical information about the economy and society. On September 14, the Commission will issue its long-awaited report.

We hope you're enjoying Project Syndicate.

To continue reading, subscribe now.

Subscribe

Get unlimited access to PS premium content, including in-depth commentaries, book reviews, exclusive interviews, On Point, the Big Picture, the PS Archive, and our annual year-ahead magazine.

https://prosyn.org/CRBKocm;
  1. roubini137_Mikhail SvetlovGetty Images_xi putin Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

    The White Swans of 2020

    Nouriel Roubini

    Financial markets remain blissfully in denial of the many predictable global crises that could come to a head this year, particularly in the months before the US presidential election. In addition to the increasingly obvious risks associated with climate change, at least four countries want to destabilize the US from within.

    0
  2. tharoor137_ Hafiz AhmedAnadolu Agency via Getty Images_india protest Hafiz Ahmed/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

    Pariah India

    Shashi Tharoor

    For three decades, India's self-branding as the world’s fastest-growing free-market democracy worked, with world leaders queuing up to visit New Delhi and burdening a generation of diplomatic protocol officers. But in a matter of months, it has all begun to fall apart.

    1