GDP is unscientific and unfair for poor people.

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at
Tue Aug 31 09:57:50 PDT 1999

At 12:07 PM 8/31/99 -0400, Carl Remick wrote:
>of American-style consumer comforts. But it's obviously a mistake to
>see GDP gains -- with all their blindness to negative externalities --
>as the precise equivalent of gains in a society's quality of life.

Carl, but isn't it fighting a straw man? The limitations of the GDP are well known and nobody would seriously argue that they are accurate indicators of human development. If that development is less than desirable, even in advanced capitalist economies - on which all of us agree, I suppose - it makes little sense to criticize the GDP. It is like smashing the speedometer because the car is going too slow or better yet, because the speedometer does not accurately measure the level of pollution caused by the vehicle.

I think this is indicative of a certain confusion on the left - which was excellently summarised by jim heartfield some time ago: the main thrust of marxist critique of capitalism is not the level of production but the distribution of surplus. However, the more idealistically oriented lefties (esp. in the us) criticize capitalism for the destruction of their little "small-town" utopias - and then, if somebody mentions capitalist growth (which is indeed spectacular by pre-capitalist standards), they feel threatened and burst with indignation that capitalist growth does not benefit all people equally. Why is that surprising? Is the pope catholic?

Or is it the 'sour grapes' line implicit in the third-worldist veneration of everything non-industrial and non-european (or north-american)?

I guess our energies would be better spent if we devised a common political strategy how to change that upwardly skewed distribution of surplus, instead of whining that capitalist growth does not benefit everyone equally.


PS. Please do not take that personally, it is about the 'whining left' in general that gets on my nerves lately.

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