Target: Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley (D)
Goal: Thank Governor O’Malley for putting citizens’ health and wellbeing first in a new measure of economic progress
Gross domestic product (GDP) is among the most widely cited statistics for determining the economic wellbeing of a state or nation. GDP measures the total value of all goods and services produced in a single year. It is often assumed by economists and policymakers that GDP captures at least part of the socioeconomic wellbeing of citizens of a state or country.
In a recent public address Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley announced plans to alter his state’s measures of socioeconomic success. As ThinkProgress reports, O’Malley’s administration will employ “a Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI), a quantitative assessment that integrates both the costs and benefits of economic development into a monetary measure of whether growth is truly enhancing the welfare of individuals and communities.”
This may seem like a minor, even rhetorical change in Maryland’s economic policymaking. The key point of O’Malley’s efforts, however, is that it prioritizes the health and wellness of Maryland’s population above all else. This subtle change acknowledges some shortcomings of using GDP as a catch-all measure for progress. GDP and similar production-oriented measures “treat social costs such as the clean-up of environmental pollution or the building of new prisons as positive inputs to economic growth while excluding non-monetary inputs such as volunteerism, leisure,” and other considerations.
Governor O’Malley’s comments directly address the measurement errors and biases in GDP-only measures, noting that “GDP [certainly] tells us what we are producing. But it totally neglects what we are using up. There is a difference between income – which is fleeting – and wealth, which is lasting… To make genuine progress, we must be willing to adopt a more holistic definition of progress itself. To seek an honest assessment of whether our graphs are moving in the right direction – or in the wrong one.”
This policy fundamentally rewrites the rulebook for measuring economic progress by emphasizing the health and wellbeing of the total population. Thank Governor O’Malley for prioritizing policy measures that aim to achieve a socioeconomically just and environmentally sustainable future.
Dear Governor O’Malley,
It is often assumed by economists and policymakers that GDP captures at least in part the economic wellbeing of the citizens of a state or country. Unfortunately, economic output and consumption provide only tangential information for determining social and quality of life progress. Your new policymaking and evaluation initiative, the “Genuine Progress Indicator” (GPI), breaks with this status quo assumption. This new measure offers “a quantitative assessment that integrates both the costs and benefits of economic development into a monetary measure of whether growth is truly enhancing the welfare of individuals and communities.”
Critically, implementing a “GPI” as either a supplement or replacement for the GDP measure prioritizes citizens’ wellbeing above output. Our environmental impacts are critical and often-overlooked factors that impact social and economic conditions. Conversely, overlooking positive social actions like volunteerism and public health pose serious problems for adequately addressing these concerns through policy reforms. Pulling all these factors into a single quantitative measurement will close the gap between our economic policymaking and our evaluations of their successes and failures.
Your progressive, compassionate leadership over the last several years has not gone unnoticed. Thank you for prioritizing the health, wellness, and sustainability of Maryland in this bold new policy approach.
[Your Name Here]
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