GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History - Revised and expanded Edition

Princeton University Press
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Free sample

Why did the size of the U.S. economy increase by 3 percent on one day in mid-2013—or Ghana's balloon by 60 percent overnight in 2010? Why did the U.K. financial industry show its fastest expansion ever at the end of 2008—just as the world’s financial system went into meltdown? And why was Greece’s chief statistician charged with treason in 2013 for apparently doing nothing more than trying to accurately report the size of his country’s economy? The answers to all these questions lie in the way we define and measure national economies around the world: Gross Domestic Product. This entertaining and informative book tells the story of GDP, making sense of a statistic that appears constantly in the news, business, and politics, and that seems to rule our lives—but that hardly anyone actually understands.

Diane Coyle traces the history of this artificial, abstract, complex, but exceedingly important statistic from its eighteenth- and nineteenth-century precursors through its invention in the 1940s and its postwar golden age, and then through the Great Crash up to today. The reader learns why this standard measure of the size of a country’s economy was invented, how it has changed over the decades, and what its strengths and weaknesses are. The book explains why even small changes in GDP can decide elections, influence major political decisions, and determine whether countries can keep borrowing or be thrown into recession. The book ends by making the case that GDP was a good measure for the twentieth century but is increasingly inappropriate for a twenty-first-century economy driven by innovation, services, and intangible goods.

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About the author

Diane Coyle is professor of economics at the University of Manchester. She runs the consultancy Enlightenment Economics, and as well as a regular blog, she is the author of numerous books, including The Economics of Enough and The Soulful Science: What Economists Really Do and Why It Matters (both Princeton).
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Additional Information

Publisher
Princeton University Press
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Published on
Sep 22, 2015
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Pages
184
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ISBN
9781400873630
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Language
English
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Genres
Business & Economics / Economic History
Business & Economics / Economics / Macroeconomics
Business & Economics / Statistics
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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The world's leading economies are facing not just one but many crises. The financial meltdown may not be over, climate change threatens major global disruption, economic inequality has reached extremes not seen for a century, and government and business are widely distrusted. At the same time, many people regret the consumerism and social corrosion of modern life. What these crises have in common, Diane Coyle argues, is a reckless disregard for the future--especially in the way the economy is run. How can we achieve the financial growth we need today without sacrificing a decent future for our children, our societies, and our planet? How can we realize what Coyle calls "the Economics of Enough"?

Running the economy for tomorrow as well as today will require a wide range of policy changes. The top priority must be ensuring that we get a true picture of long-term economic prospects, with the development of official statistics on national wealth in its broadest sense, including natural and human resources. Saving and investment will need to be encouraged over current consumption. Above all, governments will need to engage citizens in a process of debate about the difficult choices that lie ahead and rebuild a shared commitment to the future of our societies.


Creating a sustainable economy--having enough to be happy without cheating the future--won't be easy. But The Economics of Enough starts a profoundly important conversation about how we can begin--and the first steps we need to take.

A textbook that examines how societies reach decisions about the use and allocation of economic resources

While economic research emphasizes the importance of governmental institutions for growth and progress, conventional public policy textbooks tend to focus on macroeconomic policies and on tax-and-spend decisions. Markets, State, and People stresses the basics of welfare economics and the interplay between individual and collective choices. It fills a gap by showing how economic theory relates to current policy questions, with a look at incentives, institutions, and efficiency. How should resources in society be allocated for the most economically efficient outcomes, and how does this sit with society’s sense of fairness?

Diane Coyle illustrates the ways economic ideas are the product of their historical context, and how events in turn shape economic thought. She includes many real-world examples of policies, both good and bad. Readers will learn that there are no panaceas for policy problems, but there is a practical set of theories and empirical findings that can help policymakers navigate dilemmas and trade-offs. The decisions faced by officials or politicians are never easy, but economic insights can clarify the choices to be made and the evidence that informs those choices. Coyle covers issues such as digital markets and competition policy, environmental policy, regulatory assessments, public-private partnerships, nudge policies, universal basic income, and much more.

Markets, State, and People offers a new way of approaching public economics.

A focus on markets and institutions
Policy ideas in historical context
Real-world examples
How economic theory helps policymakers tackle dilemmas and choices
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