Skip to main content

Common Dreams. Journalism funded by people, not corporations.

There has never been—and never will be—an advertisement on our site except for this one: without readers like you supporting our work, we wouldn't exist.

No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news and opinion 365 days a year that is freely available to all and funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.

Our mission is clear. Our model is simple. If you can, please support our Fall Campaign today.

Support Our Work -- No corporate influence. No pay-wall. Independent news funded by those who support our mission: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. Please support our Fall Campaign today.

"It should be clear that, in spite of the increases in GDP, in spite of the 2008 crisis being well behind us, everything is not fine," writes economist Joseph Stiglitz, who won the Nobel Prize for Economics in 2001. (Photo: Local Future Project)

'Everything Is Not Fine': Nobel Economist Calls on Humanity to End Obsession With GDP

"If we measure the wrong thing," warns Joseph Stiglitz, "we will do the wrong thing."

Jon Queally

Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz is warning the world that unless the obsession many world leaders have with gross national product (GDP) comes to end, there will be little chance of adequately fighting back against the triple-threat of climate destruction, the scourge of financial inequality, and the crises of democracy now being felt around the globe.

In an op-ed published Sunday in the Guardian, Stiglitz says that these interrelated crises of environmental degradation and human suffering have solidified in his mind the idea that  "something is fundamentally wrong with the way we assess economic performance and social progress."

"Something is fundamentally wrong with the way we assess economic performance and social progress."—Joseph StiglitzDefining GDP as "the sum of the value of goods and services produced within a country over a given period," Stiglitz points to the financial crash of 2008—and the so-called "recovery" which has taken place in the decade since—as evidence that the widely-used measurement is not up to the task of providing an accurate assessment of the economy, let alone the state of the world or the people living in it.

"It should be clear that, in spite of the increases in GDP, in spite of the 2008 crisis being well behind us, everything is not fine," writes Stiglitz. "We see this in the political discontent rippling through so many advanced countries; we see it in the widespread support of demagogues, whose successes depend on exploiting economic discontent; and we see it in the environment around us, where fires rage and floods and droughts occur at ever-increasing intervals."

A central argument of his new book—co-authored by fellow economists Jean-Paul Fitoussi and Martine Durand and titled "Measuring What Counts: The Global Movement for Well-Being"—Stiglitz says that studying the last ten years of the global economy has showed him with increasing clarity why governments "can and should go well beyond GDP," especially with the climate crisis knocking down the planet's door. He writes:

If our economy seems to be growing but that growth is not sustainable because we are destroying the environment and using up scarce natural resources, our statistics should warn us. But because GDP didn't include resource depletion and environmental degradation, we typically get an excessively rosy picture.

These concerns have now been brought to the fore with the climate crisis. It has been three decades since the threat of climate change was first widely recognized, and matters have grown worse faster than initially expected. There have been more extreme events, greater melting of glaciers and greater natural habitat destruction.

Everything is not fine, Stiglitz argues, but says economists have been working hard on providing new ways to measure economic health. Embraced more broadly, new economic measures that include accounting for human happiness and environmental well-being could help change the course of humanity.

As he notes in the op-ed, "If we measure the wrong thing, we will do the wrong thing."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

Ahead of Historic House Hearing, Fresh Big Oil Misinformation Campaign Exposed

"It's always helpful to remember that big fossil fuel companies (besides being overwhelmingly responsible for carbon pollution) are also skeevy disinformation hucksters."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Very Welcome' Progress as Iran Agrees to Restart Talks on Nuclear Deal Sabotaged by Trump

One peace advocate urged all sides to reconvene negotiations "as soon as possible and with renewed urgency" to avert "disastrous" consequences for Iran and the world.

Brett Wilkins ·


House Progressives: 'When We Said These Two Bills Go Together, We Meant It'

"Moving the infrastructure bill forward without the popular Build Back Better Act risks leaving behind working people, families, and our communities."

Andrea Germanos ·


As US Makes Case for Extradition, Global Demand Rises For Assange's Immediate Freedom

"Virtually no one responsible for alleged U.S. war crimes committed in the course of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars has been held accountable... and yet a publisher who exposed such crimes is potentially facing a lifetime in jail."

Julia Conley ·


Wyden's New Billionaires Income Tax Plan Applauded as Step Toward Justice

"For too long, families have been denied basic supports... while billionaires evade taxes on obscene amounts of wealth. This dynamic is economically dangerous and morally unsustainable."

Jessica Corbett ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo