Is Now The Time For Revolution?

The French wants the world to change how it measures GDP. Is their motivation rooted in them lagging behind us, or are they on to something on how we factor economic growth…and our own happiness?

Americans collective resentment towards all things French is longstanding.

Yet, despite our cultural divisions is now the time to be taking economic advice from the French? Granted, in terms of GDP France has lagged behind us for decades. However, we’ve been hit far harder than they have and while they too greet the worse economic downturn in over half a century they’ve since recorded a small level of growth – 0.3 percent – in the second quarter of this year.

Could the root of their nominal level of good progress be rooted in how they’ve handled the crisis?

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked world leaders to join a “revolution” in how we measure economic progress. President Sarkozy believes we ought to drop the collective obsession with gross domestic product and factor areas such as health-care availability and leisure time.

In a recent speech Sarkozy argued that the financial crisis has shown the need for a better way of calculating a country’s economic health. Although it may seem like Sarkozy’s economic advisor is Dr. Phil, two Nobel Prize winners are actually behind the shaping of Sarkozy’s revolution.

U.S. economist Joseph Stiglitz, winner of the 2001 Nobel economics prize and a critic of free-market economists, co-authored the report. Stiglitz told the Associated Press, “GDP is an attempt to measure one part of what is going on in our society which is market production. It is what I call GDP fetichism to think success in that part is success for the economy and for society.”

Stiglitz said France’s ranking would rise in comparison to the U.S. because of better access to health care and because it has a lower percentage of people in jail. Stiglitz says that while prison business boosts GDP figures that isn’t a sign of economic health.

Advising Stiglitz was Armatya Sen of India, who won the 1998 Nobel Prize for work on developing countries.

France is known as a land of leisure, and they along with other parts of Europe typically enjoy longer lives, better retirement, and accumulate far less stress due to shortened work weeks.