An EconTalk Podcast Listening Guide

Diane Coyle on GDP

Listen to the EconTalk podcast Diane Coyle on GDP and consider these questions.

1. How does Coyle describe the 17th century origins of GDP? How has its use by governments changed since then?

2. How is GDP used to make comparisons across time? How is it possible for a nation like Nigeria to post a GDP figure 89% higher than the previous day?

3. Roberts argues that GDP measures cannot account for quality changes over time. Why is this the case, and what problems does it pose?

4. In what ways is measuring the “government” component of GDP problematic?

5. To what extent does relying on GDP as a measure of economic well-being perpetuate “gross materialism?” Explain.

6. Approximately fifteen minutes into the episode, Roberts mentions the “stagnation argument.” What does he mean by this, and how persuaded are you that this is a significant problem?

7. Roberts and Coyle discuss current research on happiness about halfway through the episode. One alternative to GDP that Coyle points to is the Australian “dashboard” approach. What is this, and how do you think this measure compares to GDP?

8. Roberts notes that politicians often advocate policies which they claim will increase GDP. To what extent is this really possible? Explain.

9. Near the end of the episode, Roberts asks Coyle what the government should be measuring. How does she reply? How effective do you believe her suggestions could be?