Many different economists have devised measures that go beyond “an immense accumulation of commodities,” that is, Gross Domestic Product. The most famous of them is “green GDP.”
In China, the project of actually using green GDP failed (because it erased the spectacular growth rates of regions and the country as a whole). But the economist who originally came up with that yardstick, Niu Wenyuan [ht: tm], has invented a new “GDP quality index”:
Niu’s formulation combines five elements: Economic quality, which considers the amount of resources and energy needed to generate each 10,000 yuan of GDP; social quality, which includes differences of incomes between rich and poor that might led to destructive riots; environmental quality, which assesses the amount of waste and carbon generated per 10,000 yuan of economic activity; quality of life, which figures in life expectancy and other human development indicators; and management quality, which measures the proportion of tax revenue used for public security, the durability of infrastructure and the proportion of public officials in the overall population. . .
“They want to know the truth. Is our GDP genuine or is it something else. We have provided an answer,” he says. “We shouldn’t worship GDP and we shouldn’t abandon GDP. Our aim to have a GDP that consumes fewer natural resources, is less harmful to the environment and has a low social management cost. We want rational, genuine GDP.”
I wonder when Niu and other economists will start calculating another key index of capitalist development and social unrest: the rate of exploitation.