What Is GDP?

Baby, don’t hurt me, don’t hurt me, no more

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Bullfight by Pablo Picasso

Whenever their stuffed animals fall apart, my kids get their great-grandmother’s to stitch them up. It’s an emergency and they rush to the hospital for broken toys, which is luckily next door. This activity adds nothing to GDP but it makes the children happy and probably adds years to the old lady’s life. I think about it and I wonder. We’re really measuring the wrong things. We’re not measuring what matters at all.

As the original Robert F. Kennedy said about GDP, “it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” A forest adds nothing to GDP while cutting it down is valuable. Care work, repair work, share work, these are all worth nothing. Raising children, caring for elders, caring for yourself? “Do that on your own time.” That’s the message from the ruling oligarchs, and ‘serious’ economists. Seriously? What is GDP even measuring?

These people only look at the speedometer, never glancing at the fuel (E), and never thinking that the two might be connected. And we must just keep accelerating forever, they have no concept of a destination at all. Of course this ends in ruin. How could it not? We measure only prices and destroy that which is priceless. That’s what GDP is a measure of.

Waste

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Indrajit (Indi) Samarajiva is a Sri Lankan writer. Follow me at www.indi.ca, or just email me at indi@indi.ca.