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Is the GDP corporatist propaganda?


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The GDP continues to ignore the ill-affects of population growth and consumption per capita growth.

According to this philospher and author Dave Pollard, our well-being should be measured with GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator).

GPI apparently takes into account resource depletion, crime, household and leisure time, pollution, wealth distribution, lifepsan of consumer goods, dependence on foreign imports, etc...

which are all ignored by GDP.

Definitions of GPI:

http://www.cyberus.ca/%7Esustain1/Question/GPI.html

http://www.rprogress.org/projects/gpi/

Author Dave Pollard's idealistic blog on his ideas of how to save the world:

http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2004/11/29.html#a969

I personally, think there is probably something that the GPI is missing because it does not show a substantial drop from 1950 to today.

I would expect to see a huge drop since there are much less resources per capita. I think that life on earth is overall worse than 1950 by far.

The GDP suggests our wellbeing has more than doubled since 1950, which is absurd. For one, we have lost millions of hectares of pristine old growth forest since 1950.

The GDP counts the $ of the economic activity that caused the pollution and then it counts the $ spent attempting a clean-up, and the sum of these dollars is supposed to contribute to our well being???

What are your opinions?

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The GDP continues to ignore the ill-affects of population growth and consumption per capita growth.

Yes that is true, here is to progress. You will be a fossil when the world self implodes so don't worry.

According to this philospher and author Dave Pollard, our well-being should be measured with GPI (Genuine Progress Indicator).

Or is that Genuine Dork Indicator?

GPI apparently takes into account resource depletion, crime, household and leisure time, pollution, wealth distribution, lifepsan of consumer goods, dependence on foreign imports, etc...

which are all ignored by GDP.

Bla Bla Bla. I want to use as much resources as I can before I become fuel myself. Some say I am full of hot air already :P

Definitions of GPI:

http://www.cyberus.ca/%7Esustain1/Question/GPI.html

http://www.rprogress.org/projects/gpi/

Author Dave Pollard's idealistic blog on his ideas of how to save the world:

Idealistic too bad not realistic

http://blogs.salon.com/0002007/2004/11/29.html#a969

I personally, think there is probably something that the GPI is missing because it does not show a substantial drop from 1950 to today.

I would expect to see a huge drop since there are much less resources per capita. I think that life on earth is overall worse than 1950 by far.

The GDP suggests our wellbeing has more than doubled since 1950, which is absurd. For one, we have lost millions of hectares of pristine old growth forest since 1950.

The GDP counts the $ of the economic activity that caused the pollution and then it counts the $ spent attempting a clean-up, and the sum of these dollars is supposed to contribute to our well being???

What are your opinions?

I will plant some trees in the spring, buy a goat to take care of the lawn and will recycle the dog poop from the winter to power the family wagon.

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This is so misconcieved.

Of course GDP isn't corporatist propaganda, it could be described as measurement of the flow of money. High money flow, people have earned and spent more, meaning we've got more of those things that make us happy.

GDP isn't meant to measure the sadness of a divorce, what a stupid notion to bring that up.

Depletion of natural capital is pretty much unmeasurable, because we don't know what value natural capital has now or in the future. We used to burn off gasoline because it was worthless, how do we know that all that ragweed isn't the next big thing? We don't, we can't define in real terms how much our country's natural resources are worth. Not to mention that prices are rather independant of whatever Canada does, considering we are a very minor player in the big picture. Your horribly mistaken when you say there are less resources per capita today than 50 years ago. Due to exploration, and the valuation of some commodities, the real value of resources per capita has increased far past the growth of money. This is another falsification. We might be burning them off, but their value per capita is increasing, so there is more wealth.

GDP is an economics measure, GPI is some sociology measure. They are different things. There's nothing wrong with GPI being used as such (other than that I believe some of the categories are completely misleading).

You have this misconception that businesses work to increase GDP. Personally I could care less about GDP, I make money for me, which in turn increases GDP. No one actively wakes up one morning and goes "hmm, I think I'm going to raise the GDP today!"

Our standard of living has gone up considerably. You speak of environmental problems, but what we have is nothing like industrialization age Europe. Medicial care is much better, transportation is more accessible and safe.

Corporatist propaganda... my ass.

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geoffery, you missed the whole point.

I believe using GDP to measure the wellbeing of a nation is corporatist propaganda.

The higher the economic growth, the higher the GDP.

Economic growth = population growth * consumption per capita growth

Don't you see a need for a different way of measuring our well-being?

When's the last time you heard a politician planning for a reduction in population so that there would be more resources preserved for the living?

Instead all politicians and therefore all citizens plan for more population, consumption and ultimately economic growth, which just means we can afford less land in a worse area.

We turn over food production to large corporations while we nest away in our highrises and work at superficial bureaucratic jobs.

The percentage of urban dwellers keeps increasing and rural dwellers keeps decreasing. I worry that if people lose their connection with nature, they won't do anything to stop the growth, which is the only way of protecting nature and wilderness.

All these issues are interrelated.

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geoffery, you missed the whole point.

No, I think your missing more than the point.

I believe using GDP to measure the wellbeing of a nation is corporatist propaganda.

Corporatist propaganda requires corporatist collusion. I don't think all the companies in Canada get together and find out how we'll convince everyone that they are richer.

The higher the economic growth, the higher the GDP.

Economic growth = population growth * consumption per capita growth

Don't you see a need for a different way of measuring our well-being?

Thats an awfully twisted definition of economic growth.

I measure my well-being by how happy I am, which is doing pretty good. Start seeing GDP as a factor in how happy people can be, and not the definition of happy.

When's the last time you heard a politician planning for a reduction in population so that there would be more resources preserved for the living?

Adolf Hitler tried that. Killed the Jews so there was more for the Germans.

Stalin also starved his people to death in order to preserve resources for those that remained.

Since then, we normally go with not reducing our populations.

Instead all politicians and therefore all citizens plan for more population, consumption and ultimately economic growth, which just means we can afford less land in a worse area.

We've got lots of land to go around yet. Nothing too concerning now my friend.

We turn over food production to large corporations while we nest away in our highrises and work at superficial bureaucratic jobs.

Somewhat true. I'd like to see more family farms stay in business. But if more food requires bigger people farming, then I guess thats the way it has to be.

The percentage of urban dwellers keeps increasing and rural dwellers keeps decreasing. I worry that if people lose their connection with nature, they won't do anything to stop the growth, which is the only way of protecting it.

You sound like a hippie. Connection with nature? Personally I enjoy nature probably more than most hippies, I'm out active at least two days a week in the mountain parks, skiing, mountain climbing, tons of stuff. People don't do nature stuff because they are lazy, not because it doesn't exist.

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Geoffery says:

Corporatist propaganda requires corporatist collusion. I don't think all the companies in Canada get together and find out how we'll convince everyone that they are richer.

Oh really, ever heard of corporate controlled media?

I guess you aren't familiar with how the Irving Corporation who does industrial clear-cut logging in the Atlantic Canada Maritimes also owns most of the newspapers.

Wake up Geoffery!

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Geoffery says:

Corporatist propaganda requires corporatist collusion. I don't think all the companies in Canada get together and find out how we'll convince everyone that they are richer.

Oh really, ever heard of corporate controlled media?

I guess you aren't familiar with how the Irving Corporation who does industrial clear-cut logging in the Atlantic Canada Maritimes also owns most of the newspapers.

Wake up Geoffery!

I'm awake.

This is so beyond ridiculous to come up with the idea that corporations push the idea of GDP on us! I can't believe your actually serious. I've heard more enlightened ideas come from those conspiracy theorist street bums, the ones that say aliens made them poor.

So Irving cuts down trees, and prints papers... sounds like good supply chain management if you ask me. I don't see how this is evidence that there is massive corporatist collusion syndacite lurking about in Canada, inflicting their horrible views about GDP on Canadians.

I can think of many things much more valuable than fiscal policy I'd propagate if I had divine power over all media.

Sometimes one has to consider common-sense.

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I believe using GDP to measure the wellbeing of a nation is corporatist propaganda.

Quinton, your comments on the GDP are well-founded and also very well-known. Robert Kennedy said in 1968:

"Too much and too long, we seem to have surrendered community excellence and community values in the mere accumulation of material things. Our gross national product ... if we should judge America by that - counts air pollution and cigarette advertising, and ambulances to clear our highways of carnage. It counts special locks for our doors and the jails for those who break them. It counts the destruction of our redwoods and the loss of our natural wonder in chaotic sprawl. It counts napalm and the cost of a nuclear warhead, and armored cars for police who fight riots in our streets. It counts Whitman's rifle and Speck's knife, and the television programs which glorify violence in order to sell toys to our children.

"Yet the gross national product does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile. And it tells us everything about America except why we are proud that we are Americans."

Some Link

So. What else is new? GDP is GDP. It measures what it measures. Nobody claims it is the be-all and end-all. (I have tried elsewhere on this forum to deride the use of job-creation statistics as a measure of economic success. Canadian politicians regularly and incorrectly use budget surpluses as a measure of economic success.)

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BTW, Quinton, corporatism is quite different from corporations. What do you mean?

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You bring up a good point quinton. The GDP has been touted by some as the be-all and end-all of measurement of progress.

Nice post august1991.

Even someone responsible for the creation of the GDP measurement tool stated that it wasn't meant to be the only economic yard stick, but our government does tend to rely heavily on the incomplete picture it paints so we all can feel comfortable in the ever increasing spped of consuption of our natural capital in the name of a GDP approved 'healthy economy'.

The GPI should be applied and used widely by the government at the provincial and federal levels. Only the Green Party has commited to doing so.

Regardless of what political party will do what, we should all be able to agree that the GDP is an incomplete tool for measuring what it's supposed to measure. Sure it can show economic activity, but an oil spill is good for the GDP. Crime is good for the GDP, as it keeps the police and ambulances busy.

Don't come down too hard on someone who states that we need to reduce our population. If every person on the planet lived like we do in north america it would take three Earths to sustain it. Not only do we need to reduce our rate of consumption, we need to reduce the human population. This can be done by having less children - it's that simple and easy. If you compare me to Hitler or Stalin based on this statement, as was done above, you're showing how openminded you are. If we can take our collective heads out of the sand for just a few moments, we'll see that there are issues that need to be addressed, and that using the GDP without the GPI is like going on a diet and shooting your foot off to lose weight.

Cam

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This is like simply using different terms to say the same thing.

GDP is not an indicator of progress itself, rather the process of a single facet of society--economics.

We evaluate different facets of society differently. To call the GDP corporate propaganda because it doesn't take into account every facet of society is a joke. It was never meant to be the single progress indicator of a society. We use it because it measures economic progress. That's it.

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CamTheCat, thanks for bringing sanity back to this thread.

Hicksey... a better thread topic would have been "Is the media measuring our well-being via Canada's GDP a new type of pro-growth propaganda?" ... but I couldn't fit that all in the title.

Here's an example:

http://www.cbc.ca/nl/story/nf-gdp-statscan-050428.html

If there isn't rapid growth, the media uses words with negative connotations like saying that the CUPE strikes in Newfoundland "dogged" the economy and that "The province's GDP fell by 0.7 per cent last year, marking the only provincial decline in the country".

Why do we care how much the economy grows if it means we have no forests left and it means we have toxic chemicals in the air and water?

CamTheCat, I think you did a good job in summing up why the GDP needs to stop being used as a measure of success.

I'm glad you'd like to see per capita consumption reduced and population reduced also.

So I'm not the only one :)

It's not too hard to figure out that our quality of life worsens when the earth's integrity worsens from having so many people.

One analogy that has a lot of truth is: The earth is a big pie of resources... how small do you want your piece to be, and how many people do you want to out-compete to get your piece of pie?

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CamTheCat, thanks for bringing sanity back to this thread.

Hicksey... a better thread topic would have been "Is the media measuring our well-being via Canada's GDP a new type of pro-growth propaganda?" ... but I couldn't fit that all in the title.

Here's an example:

http://www.cbc.ca/nl/story/nf-gdp-statscan-050428.html

If there isn't rapid growth, the media uses words with negative connotations like saying that the CUPE strikes in Newfoundland "dogged" the economy and that "The province's GDP fell by 0.7 per cent last year, marking the only provincial decline in the country".

Why do we care how much the economy grows if it means we have no forests left and it means we have toxic chemicals in the air and water?

CamTheCat, I think you did a good job in summing up why the GDP needs to stop being used as a measure of success.

I'm glad you'd like to see per capita consumption reduced and population reduced also.

So I'm not the only one :)

It's not too hard to figure out that our quality of life worsens when the earth's integrity worsens from having so many people.

One analogy that has a lot of truth is: The earth is a big pie of resources... how small do you want your piece to be, and how many people do you want to out-compete to get your piece of pie?

Maybe every ten years we need to make a real measurement of the complete well-being of our society: environmental, economical, medical, social. Maybe that will make us more aware and better equipped to deal with the challenges.

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Very interesting reading but I would like to ask some questions.

What are we going to do with our garbage? Promoting continual throw away products just makes a huge cost for all of us.

Our GDP relies on the throw away society, and remember young members on here, as you get older a fair amount of you will become part of what is thrown away.

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One analogy that has a lot of truth is: The earth is a big pie of resources... how small do you want your piece to be, and how many people do you want to out-compete to get your piece of pie?
That analogy has absolutely no truth whatsoever. The earth (like life itself) is not a fixed-size pie.

Your analogy is an example of zero-sum thinking. It's common, and false, even when applied to something like the earth's resources. Many of our resources are renewable (eg. fish, trees, hydro) and the reserves of non-renewable resources (eg. oil & gas) have been increasing because of better extraction techniques and new finds.

On a separate point, about 75% of our GDP is in services which generally cause no damage to the environment.

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August1991... you think there is no truth to the idea that all 6.5 billion of us can't eat lobster buffets daily but if the world's population was 10 people, then we could eat lobster buffets sustainably daily?

Well, I'm sorry but that's the reality. The more people, the less you get and the more you have to work for what you get and the less your money is worth and the more money you need to get the same thing.

For you to think that services do not contribute to environmental damage just shows your inability to think a problem through and recognize the interconnectedness of everything on the planet.

What service do you want to use as an example? Banking? Universities?

Regardless of what example you choose, they need to construct office buildings (usually on prime agricultural land), they need to expand those buildings to support growth, they need to heat those buildings, they need to burn fuel to travel to those buildings daily, etc.

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margrace, I agree that our throw away society is a problem.

Our throw away mentality is a product of economic growth.

We are taught that what we have is not good enough as a newer car or stereo or tv comes out.

We then toss what we have even though it still does everything it did when we bought it.

Same with the planned obsolescence of a computer.

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The reserves of our non-renewables have not been increasing. The levels of recoverable quantities has increased because of technology but also because of that technology our reserves are being used up faster than before so the amount of oil or gas, copper or lead in the ground is truly decreasing.

The pie is not that far off. The amount of sunlight that is coming in to drive the renewables is pretty much constant from centuries gone by, therefore the amount that we can count on the renewables to feed, clothe, and shelter us doesn't stand much chance of increasing. What with depletion of the non-renewables used to boost renewable production in the last sixty years, there is every likelihood that renewables will also be decreasing.

Geoffrey..... what things more valuable to a corporation than fiscal policy would you think a corporation would try to influence through it's control of the media?

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August1991... you think there is no truth to the idea that all 6.5 billion of us can't eat lobster buffets daily but if the world's population was 10 people, then we could eat lobster buffets sustainably daily?

Well, I'm sorry but that's the reality. The more people, the less you get and the more you have to work for what you get and the less your money is worth and the more money you need to get the same thing.

When Thomas Malthus first expressed the idea that you seem to think is original, the world's population was around 100 million. Now, it's around 6 billion of whom about 1 billion or so live very, very well - and another 2 billion or so live well. Malthus would be shocked in disbelief if he were to learn this.

I have no idea how many people the earth could support in the future, or what standard of living they could enjoy. Like Malthus, I have absolutely no idea what new technologies will be discovered in the next 200 years. Judging by past experience, the changes will be considerable.

In this, Quinton, you are mistaken in seeing the world as a zero-sum game. It's not. More people live today in better conditions than at any time in our history. This lifestyle is perfectly sustainable and can be extended to more people.

Your fears are similar to someone in 1880 arguing that London could not sustain a population of 6 million because it would be physically impossible to remove all the horse-droppings from the streets.

For you to think that services do not contribute to environmental damage just shows your inability to think a problem through and recognize the interconnectedness of everything on the planet.

What service do you want to use as an example? Banking? Universities?

Regardless of what example you choose, they need to construct office buildings (usually on prime agricultural land), they need to expand those buildings to support growth, they need to heat those buildings, they need to burn fuel to travel to those buildings daily, etc.

True, one activity may seem benign when in fact it involves unapparent other activities. (This is one reason I feel consumer boycotts of supposedly bad environmental products is meaningless.)

I think you'll agree that some activities incur greater environmental costs than other activities. An AA battery poses more of a problem than a haircut, and some AA batteries are worse than others. (Think: we require deposits on Coke bottles, but not AA batteries.)

The reserves of our non-renewables have not been increasing. The levels of recoverable quantities has increased because of technology but also because of that technology our reserves are being used up faster than before so the amount of oil or gas, copper or lead in the ground is truly decreasing.
True enough, but known exploitable reserves always "seem" to keep growing. We can dig deeper, we can exploit more thoroughly, we can extract better, we find new deposits.

But let's take oil as an example. We will never run out of oil. As oil becomes more rare (if it ever does), its price will rise. As its price rises, people will have a stronger incentive to find ways to manage without oil.

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BTW, you may have noticed that rich people tend to be cleaner than poor people. That's also true for societies. The richer the world is, the cleaner it is.

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August 1991 wrote "True enough, but known exploitable reserves always "seem" to keep growing. We can dig deeper, we can exploit more thoroughly, we can extract better, we find new deposits.

But let's take oil as an example. We will never run out of oil. As oil becomes more rare (if it ever does), its price will rise. As its price rises, people will have a stronger incentive to find ways to manage without oil.

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BTW, you may have noticed that rich people tend to be cleaner than poor people. That's also true for societies. The richer the world is, the cleaner it is."

\ "Seeming to grow" is the best way to describe the illusion that our non-renewables are growing. but they aren't. Like your example of the oil. It's the same argument that we used as kids in grade seven math to describe the absolute fact that if we continuously move halfway to a tree we will never run into the tree. It is of course true but at some point it is also irrelevant. If the miniscule droplet of very valuable oil is left in the ground, our society has had to undergo the inflation caused by moving to energy sources that are more expensive than everything but that drop.

This lifestyle is perfectly sustainable? and can be extended to others? maybe you could define sustainable for us.

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"Seeming to grow" is the best way to describe the illusion that our non-renewables are growing. but they aren't.
Look, Speaker, the earth is finite in size so of course - barring the odd meteor - there's only so much available. And I suppose, the biomass of dinosaurs and foliage available several million years ago was also finite.

In practice however, proven reserves have always grown.

Like your example of the oil. It's the same argument that we used as kids in grade seven math to describe the absolute fact that if we continuously move halfway to a tree we will never run into the tree. It is of course true but at some point it is also irrelevant. If the miniscule droplet of very valuable oil is left in the ground, our society has had to undergo the inflation caused by moving to energy sources that are more expensive than everything but that drop.
As to the oil example, the real price of oil (taking into account inflation of all prices) is lower now than it was 25 years ago.

Your example of a series converging to a limit (moving halfway to a tree) entirely misses the point about how markets work. I feel confident in saying that far before we reach $300 a barrel, alternatives will have been found.

"our society has had to undergo the inflation caused by moving to energy sources that are more expensive than everything but that drop." Huh? You mean we use prices to co-ordinate our activities? What an original concept!

I'm not anticipating any rapid jump up in oil prices. Market prices jump on new information and current reserves of oil are well known. OTOH, I would anticipate a collapse in oil prices if new reserves were found or a new technology was discovered.

This lifestyle is perfectly sustainable? and can be extended to others? maybe you could define sustainable for us.
You leave a place as tidy as when you found it.

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I think I can make a good case for being concerned about how we treat the environment. But I refuse to accept this apocalyptic view of the environment. Christians seem obsessed with these "End of Time" scenarios.

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The only problem I have with the GDP is it counts both gains and losses as an increase in the GDP. It needs to be adjusted according to debt (personal, business, and government) to really mean anything. You can see billions of dollars moving through an economy, but if it was all borrowed, it's just smoke and mirrors.

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The only problem I have with the GDP is it counts both gains and losses as an increase in the GDP. It needs to be adjusted according to debt (personal, business, and government) to really mean anything. You can see billions of dollars moving through an economy, but if it was all borrowed, it's just smoke and mirrors.

no. debt is one of the KEY ingredients of economic growth. where would new housing starts be without personal debt?

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