My former colleague Les Oxley presented at the Transit of Venus Conference:
Of course GDP isn't a good single measure of success. Things like earthquakes can bump GDP up during reconstruction, but at horrible cost to wealth and life. Broad voluntary shifts from labour to leisure would show up as drops in GDP even if people were happier. A good single measure of success would be some GDP+, incorporating a bunch of other good stuff along with GDP; it would be pretty hard to get agreement on the relative item weightings.Measuring the success of our nation by Gross Domestic Product is a dated and senseless exercise according to speakers, Oxley said.He said it was time to do away with GDP as it was "not fit for purpose"."It is not a good single measure of success. GDP is only good for what it was built for: financing World War Two," he said.
But surely abandoning GDP goes a bit too far.
Update: Les advises by email:
The context was a discussion of sustainability and wellbeing where I had said that if these were the things you were interested in then using GDP alone was not fit for purpose. I then explained that the original purpose of GDP was to measure a country's output and that this was used in WW2 in part to make a case for the need to finance the war efforts. I did say that the original purpose for which GDP was created remains valid, but not as the single and only measure if the debate is broader (i.e.,measures of wellbeing). I (and Gareth Morgan) then said that GDP might best be considered a constraint not a goal in its own right and setting the goal of catching up to Australian GDP was basically futile unless the NZers were prepared to consider other options to increase GDP, like mining, etc.I'd go farther and say that, even with mining, I'd be pessimistic about catching Australian per capita GDP. Agglomeration seems likely to work against it. I agree with Les that GDP by itself is a poor measure of wellbeing. It's hard for me to think of a better single one though.