The Everyday Economist ponders GDP

This post is by Ole Keynesian. He ponders not just GDP, but dumpster diving. How cool is that?


This article from Alternet just caught my eye. It describes a new class of dumpster divers, self-proclaimed “freegans”.

“Freeganism (a conjunction of “free” and “vegan”) is the philosophy that participation in our capitalist economy makes a person complicit in the exploitative practices that are used to create consumer goods. One freegan defines the term as “living beyond capitalism,” which can involve any number of practices: urban foraging, hopping trains, volunteering in lieu of working a paying job, repairing things like bikes and clothes instead of buying new ones, squatting instead of paying rent.”

To test the theory that enough food is thrown away to sustain body and soul, the author embarks on a three day grocery shopping trip through the trash bins. By the time the experiment ends she is calorically satisfied and mentally enlightened: “…So 5.4 billion pounds of food were lost at the retail level in 1995. So half the food produced in this country never gets eaten….But now that I’ve had to throw away good food I’ve foraged from the trash to make room in the fridge for even better food, now that I’ve passed up wrapped cinnamon buns not because they’re stale, but because there are fifty of them, it’s started to sink in.”

Uneaten food, which passes through the entire value chain as wasted effort and resources, is nevertheless added to this country’s GDP and counted as a share of economic growth. But this is only one example of the prosperity story being told by a metric that doesn’t accurately measure prosperity.

The Everyday Economist wonders what benchmark would better evaluate the health of the economy.