Sunday, September 27, 2009


In his latest Dominion Post column former National
government environment minister Simon Upton
comments on French President Sarkozy’s initiative,
which I've blogged about twice recently. He writes:

Environmentalists have long (and rightly) despaired
of the way politicians have regarded
GDP as the pre-
eminent measure of policy success. When I joined a
political party, I did so because I shared some broad
values with the party of my choice. But time and
again, I found political argument reduced to a banal
exchange over who could generate a higher quarterly

GDP number.

No self-respecting economist or statistician would
make the claims for
GDP that politicians do. We all
know that cleaning up toxic waste dumps or having
to build more prisons shouldn’t figure in calculations
of ‘progress.’ But the sheer simplicity of
GDP has
swamped more nuanced measures.

The Stiglitz/Sen report presented to Sarkozy makes a
powerful case, says Upton, for ‘dislodging the fetish of
celebrating a form of growth which ignores the
destruction of natural capital.'

Do I sense a shift in the wind? The global economic crisis
has, I think, opened the door to different ways of thinking
that haven't had a look-in for a long time, if ever. Whether
more enlightened ideas will even get over the threshold of
the door is another matter: judging by the pussyfooting that
has just taken place at Pittsburgh, they might wait around
on the doormat unattended unless given some independent
momentum. Sarkozy has at least made a start.


Anonymous said...

Or resources spent purchasing and servicing cars which then sit in traffic jams using up fossil fuels, generating emissions which make people sick who then spend time in hospital - all of which goes on the so-called credit side of the GDP ledger.

Anonymous said...

Yes, there may have been a time when an increase in GDP did, by and large, correlate with an improvement in people's quality of life.

(Give me a middle C please)

"Those were the days my friend
we thought they'd never end..."

(exit stage right, and I mean right)