The Great Invention: The Story of GDP and the Making and Unmaking of the Modern World

The Great Invention: The Story of GDP and the Making and Unmaking of the Modern World

by Ehsan Masood


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The fascinating story of one of the twentieth-century's most influential and dangerously addictive ideas, told through the lives of those who invented it.

The world’s principal measure of the health of economies is gross domestic product, or GDP: the sum of what all of us spend every day, from the contents of our weekly shopping to large capital spending by businesses. GDP also includes the myriad things that our governments pay for, from libraries and road-line painting to naval dockyards and nuclear weapons.

The Great Invention reveals how in just a few decades GDP became the world’s most powerful formula: how six algebraic symbols forged in the fires of the 1930's economic crisis helped Europe and America prosper, how the remedy now risks killing the patient it once saved, and how this fundamentally flawed metric is creating the illusion of global prosperity—and why many world leaders want to be able to ignore it but so far remain powerless to do so.

Drawing on interviews, firsthand accounts, and previously neglected source materials, The Great Invention takes readers on a journey from Capitol Hill to Whitehall—on the trail of theories made in Cambridge, tested in Karachi, and designed for global application—into the minds of unworldly geniuses seduced by the allure of power and the demands of politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781681771373
Publisher: Pegasus Books
Publication date: 06/07/2016
Pages: 352
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Ehsan Masood is a science writer, journalist, and broadcaster. Formerly on the editorial staff of Nature and New Scientist, he is currently the editor of Research Fortnight and Research Europe and teaches international science policy at Imperial College London. As well as writing for Prospect magazine, The Times (London), The Guardian, and Le Monde, he is a frequent presenter for BBC Radio. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

Preface xi

Prologue: Lost History xiii

Introduction: The Great Invention xvii

1 GDP and Its Discontents 1

2 The Fight for the Formula 11

3 Made in Cambridge 31

4 The Karachi Economic Miracle 39

5 The Talented Mr. Strong 55

6 "As Vulgar as GDP" 85

7 Exporting Shangri-La 107

8 $33 Trillion Man 127

9 Stern Lessons 145

10 "Nothing Is More Destructive of Democracy" 155

Epilogue: Unfinished Revolution 161

A Note on Symbols 173

Acknowledgments 179

Notes 183

Bibliography 215

Index 227

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