We Get What We Measure: GPI

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New Economy News | Institute for Policy Studies
New Economy News: IPS Newsletter

September 23, 2011 

We Get What We Measure: GPI

Dear Friend,

Noel OrtegaWhy don't we measure what we want?

This week’s New Economy Today looks at what we really want from our economy. The indicators we use to evaluate economic performance guide the priorities we build into our economic institutions and policies. Current practice relies on financial indicators like growth in GDP (gross domestic product) and stock market prices. The faster GDP and share prices grow, the better the economy is performing. Or so we think.

Fact: Over 90% of stock market wealth is owned by the wealthiest 20% of people. The stock market is a very poor indicator of the wellbeing of the whole.

Fact: Most governments assess economic progress by tracking GDP over time, that is, by adding up the annual dollar value of all goods and services produced within a country over successive years.

But GDP was never intended to be used for such a purpose. It is prone to productivism and consumerism, the over-valuing of production and consumption of goods, and does not reflect improvement in human well-being. That’s according to IPS Fellow Daphne Wysham, who also points out that GDP fails to distinguish between money spent for new production and money spent to repair negative outcomes from previous expenditures – such as climate change.

Tip: Maryland Genuine Progress Indicator – A Model That Counts

Instead of using stock prices and GDP, why not evaluate economic performance against indicators of what we really want: healthy and happy children, healthy and creative people, strong families, caring across generations, and flourishing natural systems? The good news is that we can do just this, and in fact, Maryland already is. In the lead story, Karen Dolan shows us a better way of measuring progress being used in Maryland.

With your help we can advance the transition from growth in GDP as the measure and goal of economic activity to improvements in human, social, and environmental health as the proper measure and goal.

Noel Ortega, New Economy Coordinator

A Better Way of Measuring Progress in Maryland

By Karen Dolan

wealth indicatorsAs the 99 percent becomes more aware of America's scourge of income inequality and its adverse effects, the nation is awakening to the idea that the status quo favoring the wealthy and corporations isn't in our best interest.

The notion that "a rising tide lifts all boats" — yachts and dinghies alike — enjoyed popular acceptance for many decades. But with joblessness and under-employment stuck at near 16 percent nationally, historic numbers of home foreclosures, and skyrocketing family debt, people are realizing that their dinghies are taking in water. Too many of the lucky ones on those giant yachts drinking martinis are, at best, callous to this broad social crisis.

read more

Check out We're Not Broke, the new documentary about tax-dodging corporations, which premiered at Sundance.

"We're Not Broke," is a lively documentary about the ways that wealthy individuals and global corporations dodge taxes.

GDPsGood News and Bad News about GDP Growth

Americans are in for a long, hard slog. The U.S. economy grew at an annualized rate of 2.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2011, the Bureau of Economic Analysis reported. By Salvatore Babones.


The State of the 99 Percent

The Occupy movement is clearly affecting political rhetoric... but what about real action? By Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh.

Jamaice PlainWhat is the ‘State of Jamaica Plain’?

This op-ed highlights the State of Our Neighborhood Forum in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston, which the Institute’s Boston office helps organize. This community dialogue could serve as a model for other neighborhoods seeking to create a shared vision of where they want to be in the next five, 10 or 15 years. By Juan Gonzalez and Orion Kriegman


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