geograph-1051446-by-ceridwenGDP has more than doubled in the last 30 years, but most of the benefit has gone to the already-wealthy. That’s because GDP measures all money-based activity, so activity that helps people accumulate wealth counts the same as the production of new wealth. And because accumulating wealth is easier that making new wealth, wealth-accumulation causes GDP to grow faster still.

For people who have wealth, it is easier to get richer by investing in assets than by investing in useful production. When asset values such as house prices rise, it makes owners wealthier, but that wealth is not new. It comes from people who now have to spend more money to get a house of their own. Because GDP increases when rents go up, and because rents reflect house prices, the pursuit of GDP is one of the direct causes of the rising cost of housing.

GDP doesn’t care where the money comes from, or where it goes. It considers that a dollar in a rich person’s bank account is worth as much as a dollar that buys a meal for someone who would otherwise starve. It encourages obesity and the massive health consequences of poor diet, smoking and alcohol and drug abuse by counting fast food, sugary drinks, tobacco, alcohol and drugs as part of economic activity, while ascribing no value to healthy home cooking, exercise and leisure time.

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