Book Review 2015 - GDP A Brief but Affectionate History, by Diane Coyle, Princeton University Press, 2014

Author(s): Central Bank Of Barbados

Created 19 May, 2015
Categories Book Reviews
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This is a book that everyone should read. GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, is the measure that is most often used to describe the health of the economy, something that matters to us all. It will, therefore, come as a shock to be informed that: “GDP is a made-up entity…an abstract statistic derived in extremely complicated ways, yet one that has tremendous importance” (p.5), and that “[t]he community of national statisticians with a command of all this detail is small. In other words, very few people truly understand how regularly GDP figures are constructed – this excludes many of the economists who comment on GDP” (p.25). What is more, GDP is not a good measure of what it purports to describe: “It is a measure designed for the twentieth-century economy of physical mass production, not for the modern economy of rapid innovation and intangible, increasingly digital services” (p.6). In this short, readable and often entertaining book, Dr. Diane Coyle, Visiting Research Fellow at Oxford University and an authority on the subject, explains that GDP is a relatively recent concept, which dates from the post-World War II period. Richard Stone and Professor James Meade published the first modern GDP in 1941, for the United Kingdom (UK). The first United Nations (UN) System of National Accounts dates from 1953, and as recently as 1985 there were only 60 countries in the world for which GDP estimates were regularly published.

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