GDP is unscientific and unfair for poor people.

Doug Henwood dhenwood at
Tue Aug 31 14:24:23 PDT 1999

Charles Brown wrote:

>I think he is saying the economists on this list should critique the
>concept of GDP.

There are plenty of people who do. This has become fashionable even in liberal-philanthropic circles, like Jonathan Rowe & his Redefining Progress enterprise <>, which got a cover in The Atlantic in October 1995 (an issue not on their website). As Wojtek mentioned, the UN's Human Development Report produces an annual quality of life ranking for the world. This stuff is very useful, and shows that GDP isn't that tightly related to social indicators, that you can have growth in real incomes with no improvement in the quality of life or worse. But it has its problems. It implies that capitalism could be based on something other than money, accumulation, and competition, for one. For two, I once ran my suspicion that the Human Development Index was created in part to defuse criticism of global inequality and silence 1970s calls for a global redistribution of wealth past a long-time UN press officer. He told me I was right. For three, in the light of that, the appearance of the RP story in the Atlantic is interesting, given the Malthusian spin the magazine has, which brings us back to foundation liberalism (and romantic anti-capitalism). Marxists couldn't say GDP is unimportant or unscientific; it's how bourgeois social science represents its economy, which is based on money and accumulation. Marxists love to play with the categories of national income accounting, but I can't imagine any who'd denounce the general project as fraudulent crap.


More information about the lbo-talk mailing list