In one lifetime, GDP, or Gross Domestic Product, has ballooned from a narrow economic tool into a global article of faith. As The Little Big Number demonstrates, this spells trouble. While economies and cultures measure their performance by it, GDP ignores central facts such as quality, costs, or purpose. It only measures output: more cars, more accidents; more extraction, more pollution—all count as success. Sustainability and quality of life are overlooked. Losses don't count. The world can no longer afford GDP rule—GDP ignores real development. Dirk Philipsen demonstrates how the history of GDP reveals unique opportunities to fashion smarter goals and measures. The Little Big Number explores a possible roadmap for a future that advances quality of life rather than indiscriminate growth.
Dirk Philipsen is a German- and American-trained professor of economic history at the Sanford School of Public Policy and a senior fellow at the Kenan Institute for Ethics, both at Duke University.
"[Philipsen] is not the first to question the utility of GDP estimates, but he may be the most exasperated. His comprehensive history. . . compares GDP to any number of villains in order to make tangible the number's many flaws. . . . He is keyed into how a culture that once burgeoned can implode, and he is anxious about ours."--Katy Lederer, New Yorker
"Comprehensive and readable. . . . Philipsen is motivated by a profound dissatisfaction with the dominance of growth in the national economic agenda, and with the way in which GDP. . . has become a goal rather than simply a measuring tool. . . . [I]n the end the policies he advocates may indeed prevail, and our fixation on growth in GDP as the sole indicator of human happiness may at last be laid to rest."--David Throsby, Times Literary Supplement
"[The Little Big Number] takes the anti-GDP case even further. . . . Philipsen argues that not only is GDP a flawed statistic in need of replacing--but the whole notion of open-ended economic growth needs to go, too."--Kevin Hartnett, Boston Globe
"Some efforts are already underway, most notably the ‘Beyond GDP’ initiative by the European Commission, but much remains to be done. Philipsen’s book is a clarion call."--Seeking Alpha
"[Philipsen's] call for a dialogue about setting new goals--sustainability, equity, democratic accountability, and economic viability--should command our attention. . . . It won't be easy. But Philipsen is surely right that no task is more important."--Glenn C. Altschuler, Huffington Post
"Dirk Philipsen’s The Little Big Number, couldn’t have come at a better time."--Douglas Beal, Huffington Post
"[A] provocative and insightful book. . . . The book stands on its own as a piece of economic history, but also serves as an important call for social change."--Alex Mitchell, Consumption Markets & Culture
Table of Contents