17 May 2014

Conference Board illustrates folly of conventional economic metrics

Once again conventional measurement has painted a warped view of our economic well-being. Relying principally on growth in the GDP sense, The Conference Board of Canada applauds the oil and gas rich provinces—Alberta, Saskatchewan, Newfoundland and Labrador—for being the country's top economic performers.

In the short term they are: highest GDP growth, highest employment growth, etc. But the Conference Board never discusses the danger of basing our prosperity on the production of fossil fuels, the major cause of global warming. Indeed, incredibly the Board's report (yes, I've read it) never talks about environmental limits on the economy at all, except to comment on environmental concerns delaying pipeline construction. There is a kind of madness in celebrating the very thing that could quite possibly cause the collapse of the economy along with the rest of civilization.

The underlying cause of the Board's madness is basing economic prosperity on GDP growth. It is folly to think of growth as a good thing when we are already well beyond the planet's carrying capacity. The idea, possessed of the Board and unfortunately most of our leaders, and apparently most of us, that we can grow seemingly forever is living in a fantasy world. It is time to accept reality—the Earth is finite, there are limits. The only sensible conversation we can have about growth is how to end it. The Conference Board economists clearly need a better yardstick to measure economic and social well-being. They should, in short, enter the real world.

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