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Author Topic: What's a proper measure of economic growth?  (Read 2378 times)
rebuilder (OP)
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December 14, 2012, 10:18:47 PM
 #1

Lately I've had this feeling, not particularly well articulated yet, that a part of the problem with the way we think of economies is that we measure their growth and decline in currency. It's a feedback loop, isn't it?

GDP is measured in currency, but the value of that currency is dependent on the GDP of the states issuing said currency. From what I can gather, the "proper" thing to do is to take GDP growth and substract the inflation rate from that to arrive at a realistic figure... but what happens when the inflation rate radically changes? What if the inflation rate isn't properly reported?

I'm too much of an economics noob to ask more insightful questions about this, but it bothers me. Hopefully someone here can catch on to what I'm circling around?

edit: From what I can gather, it seems economic policy, in an idealized form, is a balancing act between keeping inflation to a "sustainable" level while achieving GDP growth of a couple of percent a year, but where did the idea that a few percent a year is a sustainable rate of growth come from? If you discard the idea that significant yearly growth is sustainable, doesn't a deflationary currency become preferrable?

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December 14, 2012, 10:32:34 PM
 #2

GDP is not an accurate measure of growth because apparently GDP has government spending as well, so if the government for instance decides to increase military spending for example and produce all this stuff for a war then the GDP will rise if I understand that correctly. To measure economic growth you should look at the living standards, so things like how much basic necessities cost like milk or food, fuel is a more modern indicator which everyone tends to panic about and I think housing is a good one as well but housing and fuel prices are far affected far more by speculative buying so I'd stick with the basics.

Oh, you of course can't forget taxes as well as historical prices too and gold prices.

If you look at this site I found you'll get a really great idea of what inflation can do to an economy and you'll be able to match up the data on these charts with the various events that happened, so 2002 and upwards the price of gold became incredibly unstable as time passed and started shooting up like crazy as people realised what was going on with the money printing and the economy.

http://www.kitco.com/charts/historicalgold.html

Edit: Scratch that, looks like the craziness with gold was happening even further back than I read, just skimming through all this data.
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December 15, 2012, 02:08:37 AM
 #3

I don't think there is going to be any one reasonable measure and it's better to think about what you really specifically want to know.

A society full of incredibly productive people working a little bit and developing amazing leisure and gift situations can easily look poorer than a society of long-working life-hating grunts.

Totaling up the currency or currency spent in a GD- like measure is ridiculous imo. Print paper and the 'economy' has grown, amazing. Buy a $78000 toilet, BAM, wealthy society, incredible.

Or suppose 5% more people take their economic activity underground so far as to even abandon 'normal' currency and reporting. Did the society get poorer by that whole amount?

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December 15, 2012, 02:20:30 AM
 #4

It should include a happiness index.

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December 15, 2012, 02:28:17 AM
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Um I thought it was common knowledge that GDP numbers are indexed for inflation.  When someone says we project growth to be 3% it is 3% in real (economic use of the word) terms, as in 3% adjusted for inflation/deflation.  Also govt spending is included in GDP however taxes means money the private sector can't spend thus it isn't like you can simply boost GDP by collecting taxes and buying $78,000 toilet seats (as an example).  Without that extra taxes the private sector would have retained the $78,000 and spent it on other goods and services.

The largest contributor to GDP growth is productivity.  GDP measures more than just productivity increases because it also measures efficiency (or inefficiency caused by govt interference) in the economy.  Inefficiency being the economy growing slower than its potential due to as an example high unemployment.  Still productivity is the basis for all wealth and represents the lions share of GDP growth over any large period of time.  We can only do some much labor (both as an individual and collectively as a species) technologies and processes which improve the efficiency of labor produce wealth (collectively).  Everything else merely shifts it around.  Humans are more wealthy (on average) today compared to say 1800 because productivity increases have resulted in the average human being able to produce significantly more from the same amount of labor.
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December 15, 2012, 02:30:04 AM
 #6

It should include a happiness index.
Like Bhutan did? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gross_national_happiness

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December 15, 2012, 02:40:37 AM
 #7

That's a start.
http://travel.cnn.com/explorations/life/denmark-ousted-100-latest-worlds-happiest-country-561826

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December 15, 2012, 07:43:08 AM
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I disagree completely. Do not, at any cost, let a metric really affect your opinions and goals.
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December 15, 2012, 03:07:14 PM
 #9

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0
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December 15, 2012, 03:16:19 PM
 #10

Jobs...

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December 15, 2012, 10:29:31 PM
 #11

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0

So the economic growth of the planet is 0?
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December 16, 2012, 12:55:28 AM
 #12

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0

So the economic growth of the planet is 0?

No, it is negative since we spewed out all that expensive tech into space.  Roll Eyes

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December 16, 2012, 01:42:07 AM
 #13

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0

So the economic growth of the planet is 0?

No, it is negative since we spewed out all that expensive tech into space.  Roll Eyes
Yeah, ET imports might not be so good for the economy. They might take r joobs.

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December 16, 2012, 02:17:32 AM
 #14

Jobs...

Jobs destroyed?

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December 16, 2012, 09:54:39 AM
 #15


Honestly you could do worse than a simple count of shit we don't have to do manually anymore.

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Gatorhex
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December 16, 2012, 03:44:00 PM
Last edit: December 16, 2012, 04:30:09 PM by Gatorhex
 #16

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0

So the economic growth of the planet is 0?

Let me clarify with a simple example..

China $10,000,000 exports - $4,000,000 imports = +$6,000,000 growth

USA $4,000,000 exports - $10,000,000 imports = -$6,000,000 recession/decay

Real growth is all about the trade balance between countries.

Now, if you want to destroy your export jobs you mandate an ever rising minimum wage and put ever rising taxes on energy.

This means production has to leave the country to seek cheaper labor and energy costs, thus reducing your export capacity and increasing another countries export capacity.
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December 16, 2012, 07:49:17 PM
 #17

$Exports - $Imports = true economic growth

GDP is a propaganda statistic. Youtube "Fuzzy Numbers"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zPkTItOXuN0

So the economic growth of the planet is 0?

Let me clarify with a simple example..

China $10,000,000 exports - $4,000,000 imports = +$6,000,000 growth

USA $4,000,000 exports - $10,000,000 imports = -$6,000,000 recession/decay

Real growth is all about the trade balance between countries.

Now, if you want to destroy your export jobs you mandate an ever rising minimum wage and put ever rising taxes on energy.

This means production has to leave the country to seek cheaper labor and energy costs, thus reducing your export capacity and increasing another countries export capacity.

Doesn't it bother you that if all countries were united you would have to say there was no growth no matter how much growth there was?

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December 16, 2012, 10:24:51 PM
 #18

First you might start by asking,

"Why measure economic growth?"

as sure as day follows night when "economic growth" began to be measured then an army of centralising bureaucrats, politicians and sundry do-gooders were advocating their "solutions" to fix, improve, etc "economic growth", gathering power, influence and favours upon themselves in the process ...... a thing that up until that point, no had even known was broken.

Any social metric, once conjured up, will forever after be used as a pretext for laws to empower the State to interfere in individuals' lives, for their own good of course.

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December 16, 2012, 10:28:36 PM
 #19

First you might start by asking,

"Why measure economic growth?"

as sure as day follows night when "economic growth" began to be measured then an army of centralising bureaucrats, politicians and sundry do-gooders were advocating their "solutions" to fix, improve, etc "economic growth", gathering power, influence and favours upon themselves in the process ...... a thing that up until that point, no had even known was broken.

Any social metric, once conjured up, will forever after be used as a pretext for laws to empower the State to interfere in individuals' lives, for their own good of course.
That's an interesting perspective. So you are against civilization in general, I take it?

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December 17, 2012, 03:00:23 AM
 #20

Quote
That's an interesting perspective. So you are against civilization in general, I take it?

No.

I have no idea how what I said to lead you to make such a huge, tangential jump ... "some people's minds work in unfathomable ways" is all I can say to that.


On another tangent, measuring the temperature (or other primitive variables) of a complicated thermodynamic system is never the same thing as measuring the energy and you would need to observe much more than just the energy to successfully control such a system (look up control theory, specifically observability, controllability, non-linear and/or multi-variable systems) ....

.... why would measuring economic growth be worth diddly squat? ... let alone pursuing a central-planned, society-wide mad goose chase to "control" it?

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