The book is the result of the commission on reflecting on the way economic development and well-being is being measured, as set up by French president Sarkozy, and run mainly by Joseph Stiglitz, Amartya Sen and Jean Paul Fitoussi (with other current economic great peppered in as members). The main question - if and how GDP is mismeasuring our progress - is addressed insofar that the main known weaknesses, alternatives / enrichments and measures for measuring sustainability are discussed.
The content and language of the report are certainly digestible enough that a non-economist will have no difficulties reading it and the points are brought over well in my opinion. It will perhaps not appeal quite so much to someone looking for an executive summary headed by several easy to follow recommendations, as a lot of the problem actually lies in the details (sufficiently but not overbearingly laid out, with pertinent examples).
If one looks at the wider issue of how the choice of measurement affects behaviour, the book is an excellent example, definitely to be read in concert with How to Measure Anything: Finding the Value of Intangibles in Business. In this respect the introduction provided by Nikolas Sarkozy is pretty inspired, too - much more than just a couple of sentences explaining the motivation, and a valuable component of the overall book itself.
The less pleasant aspect for a business minded leader is that there is no easy solution and that all of the alternatives actually demand more effort in collating and more in interpreting than the commonly accepted ad flawed GDP. Whether this is the report's flaw or not will depend on the reader, of course.
In my opinion, the book is a great piece of writing and a wider readership would definitely help in understanding the debate and its consequences in the political body. For an economist it will primarily act as a collection of the most pertinent arguments in the field (but not replace proper literature research); for a non economist it may very well be all you need to read on the topic. For someone using the book more from a market research / business intelligence point of view, it is full of common pitfalls and trade-offs present when engaging in such an undertaking and definitely helpful in teaching one how to strike a better balance between simplicity and accuracy.
Finally, the book loses its fifth star for me because of a lack of a literature section / further reading at the end. I understand that with the authorship as is, it was deemed unnecessary to do so (many of them are actually the ones responsible for the theories presented / arguments discussed) but it would be a great addition for the more interested reader, pointing them towards sources for deepening their understanding.
This brilliant little book asks whether Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the most widely used measure of economic activity, is a reliable indicator of economic and social progress.
The authors point out, "GDP mainly measures market production, though it has often been treated as if it were a measure of economic well-being." They urge "the time is ripe for our measurement system to shift emphasis from measuring economic production to measuring people's well-being."
To do so, we need to look at households' incomes and consumption, and at the distribution of incomes and consumption; we need to broaden income measures to non-market activities; and we need to attend to subjective and objective dimensions of well-being.
The authors note, "many of the services people received from other family members in the past are now purchased on the market. This shift translates into a rise in income as measured in the national accounts and may give a false impression of a change in living standards, while it merely reflects a shift from non-market to market provision of services. Many services that households produce for themselves are not recognized in official income and production measures, yet they constitute an important aspect of economic activity."
They point out, "there are many reasons why market values cannot be trusted when addressing sustainability issues, and more specifically their environmental component." As they note, "market prices are non-existent for quite a large number of the assets that matter for future well-being."
They conclude that we do indeed need a monetary index of sustainability. But we also need an assessment of the stocks of natural and human resources, so that we can check whether we are adding to or depleting them.
The authors ask how, even whether, the economy serves our needs. They conclude that we cannot trust market values to guide our choices.
I chose this rating, because, for now this ideas are in „no man's land,“ neither science nor policy. If they bring together people and knowledge, than it will be excellent, if they are just a tribute to two Nobel laurates and former President of Frnace, than it is harmfull. I like their effort to limit economic, but still they subordinate other measures to it. We should begin by broader thinking. I chose title of review from Abraham's deciosion. For love (to get a son, and saving a son) you need strength beyond yourself. We are not jelous for our children to go beyond us. But to help others (Sodoma) you need goodness, personal will (leadreship), critical mass (Abraham 10, Jesus 12) and organization. This is rational, human responsibility on thios planet. Personally I'm tryin to advance conferences of goodness, to create such policies, from bottom up, not tje other way. I run on that platform for European platform. Also I'm convinced that era of political parties is over. New forms and forums must be created. I rtecommend it to people who accepting the basic measure, of all people being equal, want to integratre their knowledge, experrience and will in bein among the critical group to prevent new failures and promote opportunities
"The Commission regards its report as opening a discussion rather than closing it. The report hints as issues that ought to be addressed in the context of more comprehensive research efforts". Thus reads the opening statement of the last section of the Executive Summary. - Is it just me, or isn't it just a bit tame - given the grand opportunity presented to the authors by pres. Sarkozy? This is one of those rare occasions where a lengthy preface signed by a politician - French pres. Sarkozy of all persons! - is actually the most engaging and interesting part of a book - and that preface is really worth reading! - It may be unfair to the leaders of the Commission, not knowing what their working conditions has been: Nevertheless, I am left with the impression that this is yet another occasion where politics and science fail to connect, in this case uncharacteristically mainly due to science being wholly unprepared for a sudden political opening. A trifle sad, at least. Much as I would love to like the book, I cannot rate it any higher than three stars.