Sunday, 17 June 2018

Brexit: and “That’s your bloody GDP, not ours.”

The editor of the Financial Times has written a book entitled 'The Growth Illusion' - and wrote earlier this year in Time magazine to make the point:
Why the GDP Is a Terrible Measure of Success and Wealth | Time

The wider population seems to agree:

Findings of an opinion survey, commissioned by the Royal Society of Arts (RSA) found 72% of people think they have little or no influence over big economic decisions:

Whose economy is it anyway? - BBC News 

With a report from the RSA and openDemocracyUK:

In the RSA’s new Citizens’ Economic Council interim report we caution that decision-makers need to find new ways of engaging citizens earlier and upstream in economics.

Drawing upon roadshow workshops held in Clacton-on-Sea, Port Talbot, Glasgow, Birmingham, as well as nine day-long workshops on economics with randomly selected citizens, we show how the UK public’s decline in trust in politicians, economists and business as revealed by the ‘Brexit’ vote and by the Edelman Barometer 2017 is closely connected to the distance they feel from decisions made about the economy. In Port Talbot, a town deeply affected by the steel crisis, one participant sketched the following when asked to draw an image of how they saw the economy:
Drawing, from RSA Citizens’ Economic Council Inclusion Roadshow workshop in Port Talbot

Our report illustrates how inequalities, such as gender and regional effects, are often overlooked or rendered invisible by national narratives about the economy and economic performance, which often aggregate figures and mask the varying levels of income and wealth distribution for different sections of society. This was a point somewhat more bluntlymade by a Newcastle resident when Europe expert Anand Menon invited an audience to contemplate a plunge in the UK’s GDP as a consequence of Brexit: “That’s your bloody GDP. Not ours!” she yelled at him.

Citizens, participation and economics: Emerging findings from the Citizens’ Economic Council - New thinking for the British economy - openDemocracyUK

The New Economics Foundation looked at these issues last month: 



17 MAY, 2018 | 


If there’s one thing that we learned from the political turmoil of the past few years it’s that people have woken up to the failings of our old economic model.

The splintering of the electoral map– with the success of UKIP, the Green surge, the SNP and Corbyn inside the Labour party – is testament to a widespread rejection of business as usual.

When the Remain campaign lined up every establishment political figure and economic expert they could find to argue that a vote to leave the European Union would fundamentally threaten our current economic system, 51% of voters said: yes please.

Probably the most poignant moment for me was a woman in Newcastle who responded to economic predictions about the effects of Brexit on GDP with the heckle: “That’s your bloody GDP, not ours,” perhaps sums this up best.

Her comment not only spoke to the depth of inequality that undermined the Remain campaign’s economic case for the EU, but also something deeper than that: the meaninglessness of GDP as an indicator of economic progress. When economic growth is no longer convincing as an overall economic goal, our economy feels rudderless.

The arguments against GDP as an indicator of national progress – or even of economic progress – are well-rehearsed. In fact, they are so well known that few, if anyone, defends it any more.

Unfortunately, however, discrediting GDP as an indicator isn’t enough. It’s a bit like trickle-down economics. Few now have the audacity to openly defend it as a credible economic theory, but its shadowy assumptions still lurk behind arguments for policies benefitting the already wealthy.

We need statistics that really get to the heart of how people’s lives are going. One of the best ways of understanding how people’s lives are going is simply to ask them. That’s the foundation of the rise of wellbeing as an academic discipline and the growing movement (including at a local level) to use people’s reported satisfaction with their lives as a key indicator of progress.

At New Economics Foundation we’ve argued for a while that looking at averages of wellbeing isn’t enough, and that an economy with economic and social justice at its core must focus first and foremost on those struggling most. We have been working for years to develop to alternative measures of progress – most recently arguing for a dashboard of five indicators, a recommendation adopted by the IPPR.

And that’s why we’re so excited today to be publishing our report on measuring wellbeing inequalities.

Commissioned by the ONS and produced in partnership with the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, it recommends that a measure of low wellbeing – the percentage below a threshold such as 4 on a scale of 0 to 10 – is reported alongside average wellbeing. Today, the ONS is adopting this recommendation and publishing their own analysis of the drivers of low wellbeing. Also today, the ONS are announcing a centre of excellence on inequalities.

New statistics and indicators might sound dry, but they’re an essential foundation if we are to change our economy into one that works for everyone. In the face of Brexit, this has never been more important. Without a clear sense of what we’re trying to achieve in a post-Brexit economy, we’re in danger of prioritising growth for growth’s sake to the detriment of our environment and wellbeing. Let’s make reducing misery and tackling unhappiness a central economic goal.

Read the full report

Introducing…wellbeing inequality | New Economics Foundation

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