GDP Up, Progress Down
It is well-known that GDP is a poor measure of a nation’s well-being. It can reveal the scale of market transactions, not the quality of peoples’ lives or the state of the environment. Of course, that doesn’t prevent politicians from focusing on GDP growth as the goal of economic policy. But such prioritization can come at a cost. The 2020 Social Progress Index, which includes social and environmental indicators left out of GDP, shows the US and Hungary declining even as GDP is rising. In the US, the erosion of well-being stems from lack of access to health care and education, discrimination and violence against minorities, and an outsize carbon footprint. In Hungary, worsening air pollution combined with media censorship and assaults on civil rights and civil liberties blunt social progress. More broadly, the report finds that if current trends continue the Sustainable Development Goals would not be met until 2082 at the earliest—more than fifty years after the target date. Will we end up with larger economies and worse-off people and planet?