First the examples of what’s wrong:
If you were the GDP, your ideal citizen would be a compulsive gambler with cancer who’s going through a drawn-out divorce that he copes with by popping fistfuls of Prozac and going berserk on Black Friday. Environmental pollution even does double duty: One company makes a mint by cutting corners while another is paid to clean up the mess. By contrast, a century-old tree doesn’t count until you chop it down and sell it as lumber.
Now why (a wartime mentality):
To calculate the GDP, numerous data points have to be linked together and hundreds of wholly subjective choices made regarding what to count and what to ignore. In spite of this methodology, the GDP is never presented as anything less than hard science, whose fractional vacillations can make the difference between reelection and political annihilation. Yet this apparent precision is an illusion. The GDP is not a clearly defined object just waiting to measure an idea.
A great idea, admittedly. There’s no denying that GDP came in very handy during wartime, when the enemy was at the gates and a country’s very existence hinged on production, on churning out as many tanks, planes, bombs, and grenades as possible. During wartime, it’s perfectly reasonable to borrow from the future. During wartime, it makes sense to pollute the environment and go into debt. It can even be preferable to neglect your family, put your children to work on a production line, sacrifice your free time, and forget everything that makes life worth living.
Indeed, during wartime, there’s no metric quite as useful as the GDP.
Utopia for Realists: How We Can Build the Ideal World
And so for day 2389