Lately the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – that measure of economic activity so often viewed as an indicator of national well being – has been coming in for criticism (from, among others, no less a personage than the President of France), along lines not so different from those that inspired this site:
It counts up the money spent (the total values of good produced and services provided in a country during one year), but it doesn’t consider how it was spent (dollars expended on disaster remdiation don’t signal improvement in national well being over the year prior) nor does it account for unpaid care work, which is a major factor in the well being of all citizens.
The chorus of critique emerges now because global warming and the current financial crisis make clear that short-term business profits, which are made to look like gains in wellbeing when they’re included in the GDP, have cost our environment and our long-term economy dearly. We need a system that will also reflect the negative effects of doing business, instead of seeing all business as pure positive.
French President Sarkozy (seen here with caregiver Carla Bruni) commissioned a report by two Nobel prize winners (Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen), to make recommendations on alternative means of measuring economic and social well being (click here for the report, including executive summary). They conclude that the matter needs more study, but in the long run will need to include a number of measures, rather than just one, which will then need to be aggregated in order to accurately gauge well being.
An op-ed from a few weeks back by Eric Zencey, makes related points (rather more briefly): click here to read.
How does women’s work fit into this debate? Stay tuned for the next installment….