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Digital Subscriptions > Prospect Magazine > Mar-18 > Books in brief

Books in brief

The Growth Delusion: The Wealth and Well-Being of Nations

by David Pilling (Bloomsbury, £9.99)

Now it’s not just the mavericks, but mainstream economists who agree that our central measure of economic growth—gross domestic product (GDP)—is an awful way of charting social progress. David Pilling explains how cynicism about the value of GDP is widely accepted—though as yet none of the competing alternatives has won out. What matters most: happiness, health and education, inequality, sustainable development?

Pilling, a journalist at the FT, shows how in the past certain economists and politicians made—and won—the argument that higher GDP would mean all other boats were raised. But it didn’t happen and now the consensus has cracked.

The Growth Delusion is mostly about the US and UK, and a little more concentration on other countries would have made it a better book. France and Finland spend much more per person on public goods as do the US or UK. And, not coincidentally, in France and Finland people live longer, are healthier, happier and better educated. In Japan, where Pilling has spent some time, low GDP has not harmed exceptionally high living standards, which are still rising.

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About Prospect Magazine

In Prospect’s March issue: A series of writers turn their thoughts to the developing war over words in the UK and the US. Lionel Shriver, Afua Hirsch, Simon Lancaster, Hugh Tomlinson, Tom Clark and two students ask if free expression is truly compromised? What’s really going on in our universities? And what do voters think? Elsewhere in the issue: Michael Ignatieff questions why today’s left-wing leaders can’t live up to the high mark set by FDR, Sameer Rahim shows how western powers have been trying to dictate what Islam should be, and Mary Beard asks “How do we look?” as our perceptions of what is beautiful have changes over the centuries.