Crime is good. So are accidents, lawsuits, illness and divorce. Sound crazy? This is the logic of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP)—and the message kids are getting from most economics curriculum.
The GDP is the total market value of goods and services produced and consumed. The GDP rises every time money is spent, regardless of the social or environmental impacts. For example, in 2014, prostitution added about £4.3billion to the United Kingdom’s economy, while illegal drugs added £6.7billion.
The GDP is revered as perhaps the indicator of progress. Economic growth means things are getting better . . . right?
Not quite. That’s because the GPD also ignores the value of non-monetized activities such as volunteering or parenting. The GDP also ignore the value of the vital services provided by the environment, including pollination by bees or the production of oxygen by plants.
Granted, the GDP was never designed to measure overall wellbeing. But that means we need to stop blindly worshipping growth. We need to prioritize more holistic indicators that consider society and the environment. The good news is that world leaders are doing just that. Consider the European Union’s Beyond GDP initiative, or the Gross National Happiness Index. These measures give a clearer picture of ‘progress’ and challenge the assumption that economic growth is unequivocally beneficial.
We need a new generation of citizens and leaders who can shift the economic narrative. And this takes committed educators who can shift the economics curriculum.
When we teach kids that increasing GPD is the priority, we’re saying that what it measures (even crime) is valuable. Instead, we need to focus on measuring what we value: strong families, thriving communities, a healthy environment, and shared economic prosperity.
Looking for ideas and resources? Contact us!