Nastiness Diagnosis. Anthropology. Religion. Gender. Justice. A Personal Notepad For the General Public.
JACOB GOLDSTEIN, BYLINE: If you’d asked somebody 100 years ago, how’s the economy doing? Is it growing? Is it shrinking? They would not have known what you were talking about. Back then, people talked about banking panics and national wealth, and trade. But this thing we call the economy wasn’t really invented until the 20th century.
JACOB GOLDSTEIN, BYLINE:如果一百年前，你問某人說，嘿最近經濟如何？有沒有成長？有沒有減弱？他們根本會不知道你在說什麼鬼。當時，人們會談論銀行借貸的焦慮恐慌與國家的財富，還有貿易。但是我們稱之為「經濟」的這個東西其實一直到二十世紀已經都沒有被發明出來。
ZACHARY KARABELL: It was invented because of the Great Depression.
ZACHARY KARABELL: 它因為大蕭條所以被發明出癌的。
GOLDSTEIN: Zachary Karabell is the author of a new book called “The Leading Indicators.”
GOLDSTEIN: Zachary Karabell是「領導性指標」新書的作者。
KARABELL: And it was invented because there was clearly a perception that there was something really, really bad going on but they didn’t really know what. I mean, you could see there were homeless people on the street, you could see there were farmers, you know, the Okies heading from their Dust Bowl farms off to California by the tens of thousands, but there was no way of really grasping it.
GOLDSTEIN: So the government starts calculating this single, official number called national income. It’s the forerunner of today’s Gross Domestic Product, GDP, and it’s basically the value of all the goods and services produced in the country in a year. When it’s released in the Depression, this wonky statistic becomes an overnight sensation.
A report on national income submitted to Congress makes the bestseller list. And pretty soon, you can’t turn on the radio without hearing those numbers and what they’re measuring, this new thing called the economy.
KARABELL: Then, you start hearing about in 1937, Roosevelt starts talking about the economy and he starts talking about national income going up.
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PRESIDENT FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT: That national income had amounted in the year 1929 to $81 billion dollars.
KARABELL: You’d never hear Abraham Lincoln or Teddy Roosevelt or George Washington talking in this way. One of the things that’s remarkable to me is how quickly we went from a world where none of these terms and none of this conversation was part of our national consciousness to it being at the center of our national consciousness.
GOLDSTEIN: In the decades that follow, national income becomes gross national product and eventually GDP and it sweeps the world.
KARABELL: The first thing you do in 1950s and ’60s if you’re a new nation is you open a national airline, you create a national army, and you start measuring GDP.
GOLDSTEIN: That’s because if you want help from the World Bank or the U.N., they’re going want to know, how does it affect your economy? But somewhere around this time, Karabell says, people start to make too much of GDP. Rather than a limited measure of the economy, it becomes this Cold War gauge of who’s doing better or who’s winning. And, so, perhaps inevitably, all that success leads to the GDP backlash.
Robert Kennedy famously calls out its shortcomings in 1968.
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ROBERT KENNEDY: 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.
DIANE COYLE: It does what says on the tin, it measures the economy. We shouldn’t make it do something it was never intended to do.
GOLDSTEIN: Diane Coyle is an economist who just wrote a book called “GDP, A Brief But Affectionate History.” Coyle says GDP was never intended to measure overall well being or a nation’s standard of living. Certain things that are clearly bad actually make GDP go up, like hurricane damage that costs a lot to fix. And here’s another thing. The history of GDP is full of debates about what you should count when you’re adding it up.
For example, should you count the black market, which means everything from off-the-books babysitters to mafia drug deals? The U.S. doesn’t, other countries do. Back in the ’80s, Italy started counting its black market and overnight the Italian economy became bigger than the U.K. economy. The Italians celebrated. They called it Il Sorpasso. Coyle says this points to a common misconception.
COYLE: We tend to think about GDP as if it’s a natural object. It’s like a mountain, and we have methods of measuring it that are better or worse and more or less accurate. But there is a thing there to be measured. And actually, that’s not just true with the economy. There’s no natural entity called GDP in the universe.
GOLDSTEIN: In other words, maybe the most important thing to remember about GDP is it’s not a thing, it’s an idea. And that idea keeps changing. Just last year, the U.S. tweaked the way it calculates GDP and in an instant, the economy was $500 billion bigger.
But as Simon Kuznets, the inventor of GDP, warned in 1934: “The welfare of a nation can scarcely be inferred from a measurement of national income.”
GDP的發明者，Simon Kuznets, 老早就在 1934就警告過對「國家收入」的盲目崇拜:「一個國的福祉幾乎不能從測量國家的收入來推論。」
n Jiangsu’s Xiangshui county, development of a chemical industrial park several years ago brought the county much-needed foreign direct investment and tax revenues. However, local people live in constant fear after an explosion at the park killed and wounded more than 50 people in 2007.
In November last year, some 30 workers were poisoned as a result of a chlorine leak in one of the plants in the park. Early in the morning of Feb 10, residents heard that another explosion was imminent and attempted to flee. Four people were killed and dozens wounded in the ensuing chaos.
Nanfang Daily reported last month that when septic tanks were installed in residential areas to upgrade toilets, the waste water was discharged directly into the waterways near residents’ homes.
“The once flowing rivers are dead; the water is dirty and polluted,” the newspaper reported.