Beyond GDP: Year in Review
We’ve been blogging for about six months now. And just like taking a long hike, it’s always nice to stop, look around, and reflect on where we are.
By looking at recent and upcoming events, it seems this is the year of “Beyond GDP”. And there is much reason to celebrate, as momentum is building to move us into mainstream dialogue as the nation (and world) addresses current economic conditions.
If you’ve visited the MD-GPI website in the past or you read this Blog regularly, I assume you are already aware of the deficiencies of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Many of the reasons are from our very first Blog, but let’s quickly review.
To define, the GDP is the market value of all final goods and services. And while this is an important measure, it is a very incomplete one. First, GDP does not measure what is being measured. It does not distinguish between buying a nice dinner, having to replace a stolen laptop, or paying for your asthma medication.
Second, GDP doesn’t care who does the buying. Equality is not included. So GDP ignores whether the very few buy everything or there is more equitable distribution of income and purchasing. Third, GDP misses critical non-market activities like pollution, resource depletion, volunteerism, and family contributions.
This we know. What you may not be aware of is that several major reports, news articles, and events have recently crossed my desk or will be happening in the near future. While I certainly can’t hit on everything, I attempted to provide you – knowledgeable experts and interested folks alike – with a quick set of resources on this burgeoning topic.
Beyond GPI 101
There are tons of great websites focused on GDP alternatives. While not advocating one over the other, a great resource to begin with is, not surprisingly, Beyond GDP. For the interested citizen, they have a great video that provides the overall case against the GDP. And for the hardcore academic or policymaker, they have a ton of resources to explore.
In addition to this website, a wonderful new overview was recently released by Lew Daly at the non-profit organization Demos and Steven Posner at the University of Vermont’s Gund Institute. Entitled “Beyond GDP: New Measures for a New Economy,” the article lays out the policy and budget implications of the GDP, alternative measures, and examples of governments employing these gauges.
What’s Going on at the State Level
State governments across the country are undertaking a LOT of exciting efforts to measure prosperity beyond mere economic exchange. While the frameworks may differ, the intent is the same: How do states measure true progress? A great research project that highlights the wide variety of state approaches is the New Economics Institute’s “American Progress on Alternative Economic Indicators.” It’s a must read if you want to examine the spectrum of approaches on the subnational level.
Clearly, American governments are behind in calculating, accepting, and using alternative economic measures as there are scores of academic and governmental reports on GPI’s or similar metrics for other countries. Way too many for this blog. But two recently caught my attention.
First, Australia has been collecting national examples throughout the world and recently updated a fantastic user-friendly map (click on the map below). This exercise is part of their Measures of Australia’s Progress 2.0. Both resources are extremely useful.
Second, and much closer to home, I just found out that the Maryland GPI was translated into Haitian Creole! Go figure! A global project called Geek Science pulls together a wide assortment of science-related activities and then translates into other languages…for free! Awesome!
Yet the biggest event of the year is of course this June’s U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development, or briefly “Rio +20”. The theme and intent of the conference is to focus on the topics of green economy and how governments can actually implement sustainable development. A major focus of their discussion will be tracking measurements of well-being, including approaches like the GPI.
These are exciting times, indeed.
One request in closing. We are constantly changing and upgrading our website, and that includes resources, links, and topics. At the end of all Blogs, we encourage your feedback. But I especially ask that if you know of initiatives I didn’t touch upon here, please let me know! Thank you!
Author: Sean McGuire
Office for a Sustainable Future, DNR
Thank you for including the Baltimore Neighborhood Indicators Alliance in this worthy list! BNIA-JFI has been tracking quality of life indicators for Baltimore City for the past 10 years. Visit us at www.bniajfi.org!
Previous questions and dialogue available below.
- Happiness is Oppressive?
- Location Matters
- Valuation Part II: How We Quantify Full Value
- New Interactive Tools at MD-GPI
- Beyond GDP: Year in Review
- Triple Bottom Line
- DYI GPI: So You Want to be a Czar?
- How Much are Those French Hens?
- The End Game: Happiness & Well Being
- Giving Something Back: Your Time
- Meet the Elephant: Valuation
- Income Inequality & its Effects on the MD-GPI
- The Case for New Measures of Growth & Prosperity
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