With the latest GDP figures out today, I want to make what may be a heretical statement: the obsession with GDP helps evade questions of distribution while promoting infinite expansion on a finite planet.
Only in the warped reality of our current growth obsessed economic model is expansion without end seen as a virtue. In biology, it’s called a cancer.
The fixation on GDP is partly responsible for driving the three key challenges we face: rising inequality, the erosion of democracy, and the climate crisis. GDP growth does not care about equitable access to free health care and the implications of NHS collapsing, particularly if that means the expansion of the private healthcare sector. GDP cares nothing for the health effects of pollution caused by privatised water companies, particularly if that sewage needs clearing up.
As Bobby Kennedy remarked, “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.
To successfully face the key challenges of this century – spiralling inequality, democratic erosion, and ecological breakdown – we need to reorientate the focus of our economy and create new tools to measure what really matters – public and planetary wellbeing, democratic health, and the ecological cost of economic activity.
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In Parliament I am the Vice Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on the Limits to Growth, which explores this issue further.
Recent work includes an examination of the growth dependency and predatory financial practices in the now largely privatised social care sector.
The APPG’s Secretariat is hosted by the Centre for the Understanding of Sustainable Prosperity.