The Fetish of GDP: Raj Patel (#103)
“Gross Domestic Product has now become a fetish,” according to economist Raj Patel. Many undesirable things end up adding to GDP: wars, disease, and environmental destruction, for example. And GDP fails to measure many desirable indicators of community health. It has led us to live in an ecologically and socially unsustainable fashion.
No one wants to live in the Stone Age, no one wants to live in a time with bad medical care, no one wants to live in a time of poverty and wide-spread illness and disease, but what I’m suggesting is that there are other ways in which we can get to that world, and other ways in which we can track our progress other than the fetish of Gross Domestic Product.”
Raj Patel is very well educated and articulate. It’s clear this global scholar is paying attention, cares deeply about the welfare of all the planet’s citizens, and is very passionate about the possibilities.
“The way we live today is entirely unsustainable,” He says’ it’s both ecologically unsustainable and socially unsustainable. He uses Christmas of 2009 as an example: “One in five Americans, in the richest country on earth…weren’t able to access something as simple as a meal over Christmas.”
Patel feels the myth of growth has let us down, and we need “new ways of sensing, of valuing, and of sharing the world around us.” In this interview recorded in the Spring of 2010, Patel shares that, “The tools with which we’ve been raised to help us understand the way the world works and how our future might be delivered to us…are broken. But it’s OK, because there are loads of solutions around us in which we might manage the world differently and more sustainably.”
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Photo Credit: Sheila Menezes
More about Raj Patel
Raj Patel is a Research Professor at the University of Texas, and a Senior Research Associate at Rhodes University in South Africa. He has degrees from University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and Cornell University. He’s worked for the World Bank and the World Trade Organization, and protested against them around the world. Patel authored Stuffed and Starved and The Value of Nothing. He writes frequently for The Guardian, and his work has appeared in the Financial Times, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and Times of India, to name a few.
While world leaders wring their hands over forecasts of timid GDP growth, a growing list of visionaries around the world are collaborating to redefine economic objectives in a more meaningful and sustainable way.