In February of 2008, amid the looming global financial crisis, President
Nicolas Sarkozy of France asked Nobel Prize–winning economists Joseph
Stiglitz and Amartya Sen, along with the distinguished French economist
Jean Paul Fitoussi, to establish a commission of leading economists to
study whether Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—the most widely used measure
of economic activity—is a reliable indicator of economic and social
progress. The Commission was given the further task of laying out an
agenda for developing better measures.
Mismeasuring Our Lives
is the result of this major intellectual effort, one with pressing
relevance for anyone engaged in assessing how and whether our economy is
serving the needs of our society. The authors offer a sweeping
assessment of the limits of GDP as a measurement of the well-being of
societies—considering, for example, how GDP overlooks economic
inequality (with the result that most people can be worse off even
though average income is increasing); and does not factor environmental
impacts into economic decisions.
In place of GDP, Mismeasuring Our Lives
introduces a bold new array of concepts, from sustainable measures of
economic welfare, to measures of savings and wealth, to a “green GDP.”
At a time when policymakers worldwide are grappling with unprecedented
global financial and environmental issues, here is an essential guide to
measuring the things that matter.