Just as in America, in Britain too, the story told by official statistics does not alwaysmatch people’s experience.That is especially true in places like Newcastle, a former shipbuilding city, which lost out to competition from Asia in the 1970s and has seen living standards stagnate ever since.The U.S. economy, we are told, is booming.
In the past two quarters, gross domestic product has risen by more than 3%, the stock market is soaring and unemployment is down to a 17-year low of 4.1%. Many people, though,don’t feel that upside.The perception gap is huge. Unemployment, more broadly measured, is higher than the headline number suggests because many people have simply given up looking for work or are working in part-time jobs when they want a full-time job.
One of the prime faults of GDP is that it deals in averages and aggregates.Aggregates hide the inequality. And averages don’t tell us very much at all.Barring a few recessions,the U.S. economy has been on a near relentless upward path since the 1950s. Yet according to a Pew Research Center report, the average hourly wage for nonmanagement private-sector work was $20.67 in 2014, just $1.49 higher than in 1964, adjusted for inflation.
Studies suggest that people care more about relative than absolute wealth.If that is true, then as a minority have become richer, the majority have grown more miserable. In a famous experiment carried out at Emory University, two monkeys were put side by side and given cucumbers as a reward for performing a task. When one of the monkeys was given better-tasting grapes instead, the monkey receiving cucumbers became distraught,flinging its now despised reward at its trainer.The problems with using GDP as a barometer go beyond masking inequality.
Invented in the US in the 1930s,the figure is a child of the manufacturing age–good at measuring physical production but not the services that dominate modern economies. How would GDP measure the quality of mental-health care or the availability of day-care centers and parks in your area? Eventhe Belarusian economistwho practically invented GDP do not like the fact that it counted armaments and financial speculation as positive outputs. Above all, he said,GDP should never be confused with well-being.That suggests we need to find different ways of measuring our success.For the most part,we have become obsessed with a single measure that offers only limited information.
GDP的一个主要缺陷就是它反映的是总数和平均数。看总数的话，就看不到不平等的一面，而平均数根本没有什么实质性的信息。美国经济自20世纪50年代以来除了几次经济衰退外，一直不断高速增长。但皮尤研究中心(Pew Research Center)的一份报告表明，扣除通货膨胀因素后，2014年私营部门非管理层员工的时薪为20.67美元，比1964年仅多出1.49美元。