How Measuring GDP Encourages Government Meddling

6693John Cochran writes in today’s Mises Daily: 

Despite recognizing the many (insurmountable?) problems with the accuracy of national income and product accounts, Ms. Coyle takes the other side. She “joins the Commerce Department in celebrating her pet datum as ‘one of the greatest inventions of the twentieth century.’” What is Coyle’s justification for this positive assessment of GDP? Grant answers, “GDP may or may not measure human happiness, but it does measure growth, she says, and on the rate of growth in output no small part of human satisfaction depends. Grant adds, “The unspoken corollary is that, if growth falls short of some politically desired minimum, it’s incumbent on government to spend money and/or to print it.”

Ms. Coyle’s defense of GDP is unconvincing to Mr. Grant as he expects it will be to discerning readers. Grant draws the following insight from the book:

Though it was evidently not Ms. Coyle’s intention, I read her book as a brief for “positive non-intervention,” the Cowperthwaitian approach to macroeconomic management. If one really can’t measure economic activity, perhaps it’s better not to meddle in it.

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