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The link between GDP and living standards is one that is increasingly questioned. A raft of books, from Richard Layard’s “Happiness” to Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett’s “The Spirit Level” and beyond, argue that there is more to life than the pursuit of economic growth. Indeed there are many other measures of welfare that have been compiled, all of which offer alternative indicators of well-being.
Listed below are two of them – both offering insights into the complex relationship between growth, living standards and sustainability.
However, for the sake of balance: it might be worth returning to first principles. Yes, life is complex; yes, other things impinge upon welfare, but actually GDP still does a reasonable job in indicating the average level of economic welfare in a country. This point is argued forcefully in Daniel Bel-Ami’s “Ferraris For All” which makes a cogent case for the continued significance of GDP whilst also accepting its drawbacks.
Equally, compelling though “The Spirit Level” might appear, “The Spirit Level Delusion” by Christopher Snowden offers a feisty rebuttal of a large number of the arguments, and highlights the issue the difference between causation and correlation. These are excellent evaulative points. Snowden goes further, arguing that monocausal explanations of social/health outcomes are highly unlikely. Both are excellent counterpoints to the current fad for deconstructing GDP and well worth a look.
It’s ironic that argument appears to have gone full circle: a decade ago, the Left argued that the disconnect between GDP and economic welfare was a reason for looking for alternatives to GDP to measure welfare. Today, the Right are almost using the same argument – it is the obvious complexity of the relationship between GDP and welfare that means that GDP might still be the best, and certainly simplest, measure of economic welfare.
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Dates and Locations
AS & A2 Economics - Microeconomics: Markets & Market Failure (Unit 1), Business Economics (Unit 3)
- Monday 20 January 2014 - London (Stratford City)
- Tuesday 21 January 2014 - London (Fulham Broadway)
- Wednesday 22 January 2014 - Bristol (Cribbs Causeway)
- Thursday 23 January 2014 - Birmingham (Star City)
- Friday 24 January 2014 - Manchester (Salford Quays)
AS & A2 Economics - Macroeconomics: National & International Economy (Unit 2), Global/International Economy (Unit 4)
- Tuesday 25 March 2014 - London (Stratford City)
- Wednesday 26 March 2014 - London (Fulham Broadway)
- Thursday 27 March 2014 - Bristol (Cribbs Causeway)
- Friday 28 March 2014 - Birmingham (Star City)
- Tuesday 1 April 2014 - Gateshead (Metro Centre)
- Wednesday 2 April 2014 - Leeds (The Light)
- Thursday 3 April 2014 - Manchester (Salford Quays)
Post-Easter (AS Economics Units 1&2 Combined; Global/International Economy (Unit 4))
- Monday 28 April 2014 - London (Stratford City)
- Tuesday 29 April 2014 - London (Fulham Broadway)
- Wednesday 30 April 2014 - Bristol (Cribbs Causeway)
- Thursday 1 May 2014 - Birmingham (Star City)
- Friday 2 May 2014 - Manchester (Salford Quays)
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