Review: The Growth Delusion, David Pilling

Rating: 5 out of 5

The question Mr Pilling considers here is a very straightforward one, and it is whether our statistics represents the measures we care about. In short, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ in the most important field — the economy — that we care about. It is suitable to be reviewing this going into a new year as the one New Year’s Greeting I listened to included pointed references to economic growth.

I have for a while now been disillusioned with GDP. GDP has its definite problems (though also its uses as Mr Pilling relates). There are some alternatives, and popularising the use of these alternatives — whether PPP, GPI, HDI, or something else — is the way to develop past the situation in which our targets emphasise sustainability but our main measure notes activity of any kind.

Yet, what makes GDP even worse than its simple statistical bleakness is the way everything in today’s world has come to represent the adage “growth is good, stagnation bad”. It should be clear that growth for the sake of growth — growth that is either unsustainable or causes more negative societal aspects than the cost of the project — is not worth it. It is the quality of peoples’ lives that should be improving.

Mr Pilling makes for a very good case on these issues. The prose is good, and the narrative flows rather well. The way the author focusses on China, India, Nigeria, Canada, and other places in turn in his effort to expand on what measures make sense for which communities and also when and where GDP fails these people makes for an entertaining read.

I would definitely recommend this.

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