Forget the GDP

In praise of the “Genuine Progress Indicator.”

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More than a million Americans are diagnosed with cancer each year, and that’s good for the US gross domestic product. In fact, the more we spend on medical bills, the healthier the gdp looks. Back in the 1930s, when Wharton economist Simon Kuznets came up with the idea of tallying the total value of goods and services produced by an economy, he noted that “the welfare of a nation can…scarcely be inferred” from this exercise. And in 1968, Robert F. Kennedy said, “Gross national product counts air pollution and cigarette advertising and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage…It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”

So why is the gdp still the ubiquitous yardstick for the economy’s well-being? One alternative is the “genuine progress indicator” or gpi, developed by the think tank Redefining Progress. It includes social costs and benefits along with raw economic activity; thus divorce, with its attendant legal fees, is good for the gdp but bad for the gpi. While America’s gdp per capita more than tripled between 1950 and 2004, our gpi less than doubled.

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Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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