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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book for bringing the issues surrounding GDP measurement across to an interested 'non-economist', 22 Feb. 2012
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This review is from: Mis-Measuring Our Lives (Paperback)
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.
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Review Details

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Reviewer

AK
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

Location: London

Top Reviewer Ranking: 574