28 April 2016

GDP and distribution

The current Economist (dated 30 April) features Gross Domestic Product and its inadequacies, here and here. It doesn't seem to mention distribution of income, which is important as many governments use GDP as a de facto target. I argue though that rises in GDP don't do much for welfare if they are increasingly concentrated in the hands of the top one percent or so. If we are trying to do something to improve welfare, we need to target an array of measures.

Raising GDP (or GDP per capita) has become the default goal for governments because they are unwilling or unable to target for improvement an array of broad outcomes that are meaningful to ordinary people: such as better health, universal literacy, full employment etc. The vague, slippery, and ever-revisable GDP metric is a handy smokescreen that allows government not to commit itself to improving the welfare of ordinary citizens. A Social Policy Bond regime would be a stark contrast: it would target for improvement explicit, meaningful and verifiable metrics that are inextricably linked to the welfare of ordinary people.

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