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March 08, 2007


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It's not entirely relevant to your point, but I'd argue that "happiness" is not the only, or the best, measure of "well-being".


I don't think much of the reductio. Two possiblities suggest themselves.
a) long before we all become 398 million times better off, we reach an effective superabundance were we all have as much as we want of everything.
b) diminishing returns - we all have things that we could only have today by being meaninglessly rich, but that's not the same as saying we are x times richer.
GDP does have flaws, but a utility vs GDP function which is convex at a very large scale is not really one of them.
(Convexity at the small scale is more significant - it's the argument that an extra £100 makes more difference to the poor than to the rich).


Reminds me of the arguments in the late 70s and early 80s when Britain was the sick man of Europe economically. People were in reasonably secure jobs, working inefficiently with relatively unproductive plant and machinery. It may have taken weeks to have an upstairs extension phone put in, and maybe an Austin Allegro was not a good car, but it was "better" than the misery of 3 million unemployed in the Thatcher shakeout.

BTW, is it accepted that she and advisors like Sir Keith Joseph and Patrick Minford must have known full well, before being elected, that that the shakout and attendant suffering by people like men, perhaps WWII veterans in their 50s, ending up on the scrap heap, just like the men in the 1930s and which they'd beleived would never be allowed to happen again?


"if the long-run connection between GDP and well-being is weak, GDP must be a bad measure of well-being in the short-run": non sequitur.

James C

This makes as much sense as saying that a doctor shouldn\'t bother with his thermometer but just give his patients a few vitamins.



Your managed declinism is what would have ruined the UK and my future.

Thatcher gave this country and me a future.

Glenn Athey

As an economist, I never think of GDP as a measure of well being. Its simply a method of estimating economic output.

And the GDP growth rate is indicative of the rate of growth of output.

What really matters for well being, is what the distribution of GDP is, or its per capita share. And then there are other ways of converting it into more meaninful measurements of wealth such as purchasing power parity GDP. And its better used on an per capita measure.

Equating GDP with well being is like equating your wage packet with your own personal happiness and well being. Its not the size of it, but what you could buy with it, and what you do buy with it, and it tells us nothing about your moral, physical, mental or emotional states.

I still think GDP is useful as a measure, but limited to indicate anything beyond aggregate national economic wealth.

So - let's keep GDP, eh?!


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Hi great article, I really enjoy reading this article , thanks GDP does have flaws, but a utility vs GDP function which is convex at a very large scale is not really one of them.
(Convexity at the small scale is more significant - it's the argument that an extra £100 makes more difference to the poor than to the rich).
thanks again good topic

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