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GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History Hardcover – February 23, 2014
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Winner of the 2015 Bronze Medal in Economics, Axiom Business Book Awards
One of The Wall Street Journal’s Best Books of 2014
One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2014
One of FA-mag.com’s Books of the Year 2014
One of "The Books Quartz Read" in 2014
One of Minnpost.com’s ‘Three (plus) books for the econ buff on your list’ 2014
Longlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2014
"Coyle's book GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History . . . provide[s] comprehensive and readable accounts of the history of national income and of the role of GDP in contemporary political and economic life."--David Throsby, Times Literary Supplement
"GDP is, as Diane Coyle points out in her entertaining and informative GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History, a bodge, an ongoing argument."--John Lanchester, London Review of Books
"[A] little charmer of a book . . . GDP: A Brief but Affectionate History is just what the title promises. . . . Cowperthwaite himself would nod in agreement over Ms. Coyle's informed discussion of what the GDP misses and how it misfires. . . . Ms. Coyle--a graceful and witty writer, by the way--recounts familiar problems and adds some new ones. . . . [E]xcellent."--James Grant, Wall Street Journal
"Anyone who wants to know how GDP and the SNA have come to play such important roles in economic policy-making will gain from reading Coyle's book. As will anyone who wants to gain more understanding of the concept's strengths and weaknesses."--Nicholas Oulton, Science
"Diane Coyle's new book, GDP: A Brief But Affectionate History, is a timely contribution to discussions of modern economic performance."--Arnold Kling, American
"[E]xcellent."--Adam Creighton, The Australian
"Diane Coyle's book is as good a simple guide as we are likely to see."--Samuel Brittan, Financial Times
"Coyle does good work explicating a topic that few understand, even if it affects each of us daily. A pleasure for facts-and-numbers geeks, though accessibly written and full of meaningful real-world examples."--Kirkus Reviews
"[S]mart and lucid. . . . [S]hort but masterful."--Todd G. Buchholz, Finance & Development
From the Inside Flap
"Diane Coyle renders GDP accessible and introduces a much-needed historical perspective to the discourse of what we measure and why. A must-read for those interested in the far-reaching impact of GDP on the global economy, just as we seek ways to go beyond it."--Angel Gurría, secretary-general of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
"Countries are judged by their success in producing GDP. But what is it and where do those numbers reported on television come from? Diane Coyle makes GDP come to life--we see its strengths and its fallibilities, and we learn to understand and respect both."--Mervyn King, governor of the Bank of England, 2003-2013
"This is an engaging and witty but also profoundly important book. Diane Coyle clearly and elegantly explains the fundamental difficulties of GDP--and how this headline figure is liable to radical change by apparently simple changes in method. She also provides a nice treatment of alternative proposals such as happiness surveys."--Harold James, author ofMaking the European Monetary Union
"Well written, interesting, and useful, this book will appeal to many readers. I learned a lot from it."--Robert Hahn, University of Oxford
Top customer reviews
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Informative: it covers pretty much every issue I know of on the subject, the only exception I can think of being that she fails to educate the reader on the treatment of welfare state transfer payments (they are not included in GDP which, although that is mechanically correct, produces a misleading under-statement of government's role in the economy - a good chunk of the consumption in GDP is paid for with welfare state transfer payments that are not identified as such in GDP). Maybe also some topics are treated too lightly (household production) than others (surprising depth on financial services), but that's to be expected given the obvious intent to be brief. There were a couple recitations of formulas that I think are mis-stated but they were not significant to detract.
Very good introduction to the topic, and more erudite and less polemical than I would have predicted when I opened it.
Some of the other reviews, I think downgrade the book for not sharing the reviewer's ideological perspective. That is unfair to the author. The book's title is exceedingly accurate (which itself is rare in books in this field that often overstate their contents to make more sales): the author is not issuing a"a very conservative defense of GDP orthodoxy" to quote one such review. It is simply what the title says, a "brief but affectionate history". A basic understanding of the topic is a good thing in and of itself before one adopts a critical posture, and this book definitely contributes to such an understanding. Well done.
The book is very insightful as it describes the history of GDP and its shortcomings. I did not know that GDP was so arbitrary and incomplete.
It is scary that governments, financial sectors, and even laypeople live and die by GDP despite its serious flaws. GDP is plagued by measurement errors, construct error (measuring the wrong concept), and statistical massaging. GDP has brought great progress to the understanding of production and economics but I believe that the world now should work on developing a better concept than the current GDP. I think economists and statisticians can work on decreasing the measurement error. Other disciplines could focus on what really matters such as quality of life. I know that it is very hard to define quality of life but we have to start somewhere.
Overall, the book is excellent and the author does a great job at explaining GDP and provides an insightful direction for both policy makers and researchers.
Arnold Kling rightly says that economic history can be used to teach macroeconomics more effectively. GDP presents a historical narrative of the evolution of GDP, which started as a result of war, and soon became the main macroeconomic indicator. So, yes, with a few explanations to clarify concepts, one can use the book in an introductory class on macroeconomics.
The Gross Domestic Product has been criticised frequently. Critics argue, among other things, that GDP is not a good measure of social welfare, that it does not include the informal economy, and that it does not deal well with innovation. Those criticisms are justifiable and spot-on, but as Diane Coyle argues, in spite of its many handicaps the GDP is still a useful tool to measure economic performance. From the beginning GDP was not seen as a measure of social welfare, but of income and production. Of course, we need other indicators to measure welfare, but as far as income and production goes, the GDP is still useful. That does not mean that it is perfect, not at all. In fact, it needs serious modifications.
I like Diane's writing style a lot. I follow her blog closely. However, I can not tell exactly what is so attractive about her writing. She explains her ideas and arguments with an almost optimal level of complexity, no more, no less. You can look at the way she describes GNP in the book. She could have given a long explanation but instead she just tells what is sufficient for understanding the main ideas in the book. The most important characteristic, I think, is that she asks big questions. At the end of the book she argues that, under the current digital and online economy, and everything that they imply we need a new definition of "the economy." That is a metaphysical claim of a mainly "physical" social science. So she makes one think big and not many writers can do that.
Of course I am making huge simplifications of sharply elaborated arguments. .
Most recent customer reviews
Not an "exhaustive" textbook but then again it was not advertised as such.