The Genuine Progress Indicator — A Principled Approach to Economics

Publication -

Oct. 1, 1999

The architects of the GDP — John Maynard Keynes (U.K.) and Simon Küznets (U.S.) — did caution against using GDP as a measure of the welfare of a nation. In 1962 Küznets lamented that "the welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income as defined by the GDP…goals for 'more' growth should specify of what and for what."

Some 32 years after Simon Küznets' lament, Redefining Progress was established to address the challenge Küznets posed. This economic research think tank developed the Genuine Progress Indicator, or GPI. Developed by Clifford Cobb, and co-authored by Ted Halstead and Jonathan Rowe, the 1994 U.S. GPI results created a minor tremor in the U.S. economic machine. Genuine progress was considerably different than years of torrid economic growth. For the first time, a holistic measure of the welfare of a nation had been constructed — revealing the true state of the nation's natural, social, human and human-made capital. Mainstream media were lukewarm about these new ideas, wondering what the GPI had to do with the Dow Jones Industrial Average reaching new phoenix highs. For a nation so obsessed with economic performance, this cold shower was strange but honest. Today, the economic mantra that more economic growth (more production; more consumption) and increasing productivity automatically leads to improved well-being, continues despite an honest accounting of the state of real wealth.

Tags:  Economics.

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