Mismeasuring Our Lives

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by Joseph E. Stiglitz, Amartya Sen, Jean-Pual Fitoussi

Type: Book [title]
Published Spring, 2010
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Origionally published on The New Press.

The [financial] crisis is teaching us a very important lesson: those attempting to guide the economy and our societies are like pilots trying to steer a course without a reliable compass. — from Mismeasuring Our Lives

In February of 2008, amid the looming global financial crisis, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France asked Nobel Prize–winning economists Joseph Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, along with the distinguished French economist Jean Paul Fitoussi, to establish a commission of leading economists to study whether Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the most widely used measure of economic activity—is a reliable indicator of economic and social progress. The Commission was given the further task of laying out an agenda for developing better measures.

Mismeasuring Our Lives is the result of this major intellectual effort, one with pressing relevance for anyone engaged in assessing how and whether our economy is serving the needs of our society. The authors offer a sweeping assessment of the limits of GDP as a measurement of the well-being of societies—considering, for example, how GDP overlooks economic inequality (with the result that most people can be worse off even though average income is increasing); and does not factor environmental impacts into economic decisions.

In place of GDP, Mismeasuring Our Lives introduces a bold new array of concepts, from sustainable measures of economic welfare, to measures of savings and wealth, to a “green GDP.” At a time when policymakers worldwide are grappling with unprecedented global financial and environmental issues, here is an essential guide to measuring the things that matter.

Joseph E. Stiglitz is a professor of economics at Columbia University and the recipient of a John Bates Clark Medal and a Nobel Prize. He is also the former senior vice president and chief economist of the World Bank. His books include Globalization and Its Discontents, The Three Trillion Dollar War, and Making Globalization Work. He lives in New York City.  Amartya Sen is Lamont University Professor, and Professor of Economics and Philosophy, at Harvard University. The author of numerous books, including Identity and Violence, Rationality and Freedom, and Development as Freedom, he is also the recipient of a Nobel Prize in Economics. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Jean Paul Fitoussi is a professor of economics at Sciences-po and the president of OFCE (Sciences-po Center for Economic Research, Paris). He lives in Paris.