Reagan-era economic thinking focuses on the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the bellwether for how well society is doing. It’s a narrow view of the world which ignores everything except the movement of capital, yet many economists and politicians are stuck in this outdated way of thinking. In this context, and with the influential power economists have, it’s noteworthy that Cambridge economist is openly advocating to not use GDP and focus instead on making a sustainable society. We need to plan ahead for the future and build a better tomorrow instead of punishing future generations with an unsustainable economic system for short term wealth now.
“A focus on GDP without proper regard for environmental degradation or inequality has been a disaster for global ecosystems and undermined social cohesion,” said Prof Diane Coyle, who leads “Beyond GDP’ research at Cambridge’s Bennett Institute for Public Policy and is a key speaker at Tuesday’s public event.
“Statistics are the lens through which we see the world, but they have made nature invisible to policymakers. Twenty-first century progress cannot be measured using 20th-century statistics,” she said.
In 2009 we looked at how Bhutan uses Gross National Happiness instead of the bizarre Gross Domestic Product (GDP) measurement to see how “successful” the country is. The GDP doesn’t reflect lives lived since things like oil spills and other disasters actually make the GDP go up despite the damage done. GDP is disconnected from reality.
Now, in the UK people want the government to care more about health and well being before upping the GDP numbers.
“It’s clear the vast majority of the public think we should worry more about people’s health and wellbeing than economic growth,” said Fran Boait, the executive director of Positive Money. “The government must not be tempted to pursue policies that would boost GDP at the expense of lives, wellbeing and the environment.”
In a report entitledThe Tragedy of Growth, backed by politicians from several parties, including Clive Lewis of Labour, the Green party MP Caroline Lucas, and the former Conservative environment minister Lord Deben, who chairs the committee on climate change, campaigners call for a shift away from GDP as the government’s core measure of success.
Economic influencers and generally super-rich have occupied Davos, Switzerland this week to discuss how to get wealthier. They also discuss global issues that impact more than just their own wealth. Unsurprisingly interest in climate change and inequality during the Davos meeting increases every year. This year the host of the event, the World Economic Forum (WEF), presented an alternative to the stale measurement of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to assess how well countries are performing. They call it the inclusive development index which takes into consideration income inequality.
The WEF proposes a measure of its own, dubbed the “inclusive development index.” While it takes into account growth, as measured using GDP per capita, employment, and productivity, it also incorporates several other metrics, including gauges of poverty, life expectancy, public debt, median income, wealth inequality and carbon intensity. The index also considers investments in human capital, the depletion of natural resources, and damage caused by pollution.
This is the second year WEF has published the Inclusive Development Index, and the second time Norway has topped the list for advanced economies, scoring highly on all indicators except wealth inequality. Norway’s high rankings on everything from median income and public debt to pollution, suggest that it will be difficult to fulfill Donald Trump’s desire to entice more Norwegians away from their homeland to the US, which ranked 23rd.