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The Greyhound

The Student News Site of Loyola University Maryland

The Greyhound

America must look beyond GDP to measure success

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Gross domestic product (GDP) is a staple statistic among major news stations to establish our nation’s well-being. As a measure of the goods and services produced, we calculate it, determine how good it is, and use it to measure the health of our nation’s economy, and in turn to measure our nation’s success as a whole.

GDP is a great tool to measure the monetary productivity of our nation, but how sufficiently can it measure our nation’s real success? For a number that we use to judge everything, it certainly excludes many factors we should consider important in judging the country’s success, including social, environmental and even personal success.

GDP does not measure equity in the income distribution affecting millions of Americans. That wage gap between the middle and upper classes? The GDP doesn’t tell you how big it is, or how much it is growing or shrinking. Most would consider income distribution a vital factor in our nation’s success, as well as social costs to society. Our country’s societal success is greatly affected by racial injustices and environmental issues, but why don’t we consider these in the measurement of success overall?

The GDP also won’t describe how horrible the environmental quality is in our nation, even though this greatly affects the health of our citizens. When more people are starting to become sick because of chemical spills in their towns or pollution in their water supplies, do we consider this success? Is America at its best when riots are becoming more and more frequent in our big cities? Is America doing its best job as a country “by the people, for the people” when we forget to give voice to those who some consider as lesser-than?

These things are so vital to our measurement of success as a country, yet we generalize a number that excludes these factors. We’re so focused on our nation’s monetary gain that we forget to look at the big picture. We Americans forget that our success is based upon what affects our day to day lives,

There are so many things we use to measure our quality of life as Americans– we look at our free-time, whether or not we are in careers we enjoy, and if we are even using the training we picked up while earning out college degrees. Our quality of life is good when we run the marathon we have been training months for. Our quality of life is good when we can invite friends over on the weekends. Our quality of life is good when we can make food from scratch for our loved ones.

Personal success comes from your individual happiness, which is achievable through a good quality of life. The GDP won’t tell you how much our education system has improved or how many Americans are spending time doing what they love. Vital to the success of our nation is the success of every citizen, and if our citizens aren’t happy and well, our nation is failing its people it has so ferociously promised to protect. GDP, a mere monetary measurement, can never explain the well-being of America’s citizens with an accurate and thorough analysis.

This isn’t to say GDP is bad. GDP certainly is a great measurement of our monetary success, but it does not, and cannot, measure everything. It definitely doesn’t measure everything we should consider important in order to be successful as a country. Sure, we can look at the GDP and guess at the status of the other factors of success in our country, but that one number doesn’t determine overall success.

We can’t look at this one number as the end-all-be-all and say “America is so great!” or “America is so horrible!” We’re missing so much of the big picture if we focus on one very small corner of the definition of success. If this won’t explain our country’s problems or give us solutions, then what are we supposed to do in order to understand our country’s success and work towards improving it?

When we look at major news headlines, we shouldn’t only be reading “GDP.” We should be reading numbers concerning the average environmental health of our biggest cities. We should be comparing the GDP to the overall percentage of Americans who consider themselves fulfilled in life. We should be given numbers to show how our nation’s education has been improving the lives of students across the country.

The answer is simple: we can never judge success in one, singular number. In addition to GDP, we need to be looking at the CPI (consumer price index), the percentage increase in test scores nationally and even the World Happiness Report. Americans should be looking at everything, GDP included. The numbers are there; the measurements are made. Now it’s America’s duty to use them to better our nation.

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America must look beyond GDP to measure success