The Great Invention: The Story of GDP and the Making (and Unmaking) of the Modern World

Ehsan Masood. Pegasus (Norton, dist.), $26.95 (264p) ISBN 978-1-68177-137-3
Masood’s book might have been more accurately titled “The Not-So-Great Invention,” as he is clearly frustrated with the reliance on gross domestic product (GDP) as a measure of national prosperity. In lively prose, Masood argues that GDP is flawed because it ignores volunteering, housework, environmental degradation, job satisfaction, and income inequality. Relying on primary source materials and interviews, Masood names the economists who helped develop GDP. These include Simon Kuznets, who used a version of it in a report submitted to the U.S. Congress in 1933; John Maynard Keynes, who set down a formula for calculations in 1940; and Richard Stone, Keynes’s former assistant, who applied the formula to help the U.S. allocate Marshall Plan funds. Masood also explores the introduction, in 1990, of a rival measure, the human development index, though he concludes it “had zero effect on GDP itself.” Masood’s critique is interesting but not entirely convincing, particularly because it includes just one example—in 1960s Pakistan—of GDP gone awry. In the end, as Masood acknowledges, the change he seeks won’t come easily, because challenges to GDP may threaten to downgrade the perceived relative prosperity of the world’s most powerful nations. Agent: Peter Tallack, Science Factory (U.K.). (June)
Reviewed on: 03/28/2016
Release date: 06/01/2016
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 352 pages - 978-1-68177-181-6
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