GDP and well-being

One irritating feature of the subjective well-being research is its preoccupation with GDP, or rather its preoccupation with what it thinks is our preoccupation with measuring production. It’s there again in the new economic foundation‘s recent National Accounts of Well-Being: Bringing real wealth onto the balance sheet.

The proposition that GDP cannot be used as an all-purpose proxy for societal well-being is a banality, not a critique. Nobody who believes that it is such a proxy is cited in this publication, and for good reason: nobody of any intellectual or political signficance (and quite possibly nobody at all) believes this to be the case. It is one of a vast number of statistical series collected and used in policy. Government policy is more likely to reduce than increase GDP through regulation and taxation steering resources away from their most productive uses.

The main point of National Accounts is to call for more regular collection of statistics on well-being, broadly defined. They’ve made a start with (in conjuction with Cambridge University) an interesting survey taking a multi-faceted look at well-being around Europe.
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