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The Growth Delusion: Wealth, Poverty, and the Well-Being of Nations

4.09  ·  Rating details ·  1,059 ratings  ·  130 reviews
A provocative critique of the pieties and fallacies of our obsession with economic growth

We live in a society in which a priesthood of economists, wielding impenetrable mathematical formulas, set the framework for public debate. Ultimately, it is the perceived health of the economy which determines how much we can spend on our schools, highways, and defense; economists de
Kindle Edition, 277 pages
Published January 30th 2018 by Tim Duggan Books (first published 2018)
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78th book for 2019.

In this book, David Pilling, decade-long journalist for the Financial Times, does a excellent job of deconstructing what GDP does and does not measure, explaining why in many instances it's a poor policy-making instrument, and touches on briefly a series of other possible alternative measures (that all seem somewhat limited as well).

What he doesn't do—and what I perhaps unreasonably hoped for—is any sort of analysis as to why growth per se is unsustainable in a medium/long-ter
Tanja Berg
Mar 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, business
This is an insightful book into GDP, gross domestic product. What gets measured matters. What isn't measured - such as environmental damage, pollution, housework, etc - has a tendency to be neglected. What gets measured is at best an educated guess, it isn't a fine instrument.

"The invention of GDP has given rise to a class of technocrats and economists who implement policy for the good of the economy, but not alway for the good of the rest of us. They have inherited a Newtonian view of what an
Keith Akers
Mar 16, 2018 rated it really liked it
From the title, I thought that this book would address the problems of economic growth. Instead, it addresses the problems with measuring economic growth. The author, a journalist, is debunking ideas about growth, but “limits to growth” is not discussed. This imprecision gave me a bad initial impression of the book, but the author actually does a pretty good job at explaining many of the problems with measuring growth.

What did I pick up from the book? Several things. Simon Kuznets (who devised
Shabbeer Hassan
GDP, GNP, HDI, and other humdrum abbreviations dominate the newspaper headlines quite often these days. A measure of any country's progress is often encapsulated within a single number called GDP aka GRoss Domestic Product and has been so for quite many decades now. What we often don't realize that it's not a product harking back from antiquity but rather a recent phenomenon developed to tackle the US 1930's recession and looming world wars. The rationale behind it was quite noble, if one can't ...more
Karel Baloun
Sep 27, 2019 rated it liked it
It is notable that an associate editor of the Financial Times, with decades of business reporting experience, has decided to come out against GDP as a meaningful measure. Yet he still stakes out a very safe conservative position, with completely uncontroversial statements, such as Japan is doing fine even without GDP growth. (p13) Skip any parts that seem like “review” to you, even if they are funny. Pilling takes a long time to move beyond the basics, and his humor doesn’t much make the pages r ...more
David Buccola
Jan 24, 2020 rated it it was ok
David Pilling's book "The Growth Delusion" is yet another lame attempt at propping up the pseudoscience of economics. There are so many things I disliked about this book I don't even know where to begin. I was often reminded of the old Upton Sinclair quote: "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it." David Pilling is a man who's salary is dependent on pretending that economics is a science. It's a "science" that according to Pillin ...more
James (JD) Dittes
This is a good book for readers like me with a casual interest in economics (1-2 books a year). Pilling's focus is simple, if not over-simplified: GDP is an inaccurate measure of a country's well-being.

He spends about 2/3rds of the book taking on GDP: going over the history of the statistic and showing how countries manipulated the system to record huge jumps, as well as the way GDP increases masked social or environmental calamities. Pilling's chapter, "The Good, the Bad, and the Invisible," do
Feb 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
More like a 3.5 but I rounded up because, well, it's an economics book. And I read it. And enjoyed it.

A lot less dry and a lot more entertaining than I expected, so pretty much a joy to read. It's basic enough that at times I wished it was more advanced, but at other times I wanted more detail and a more extensive breakdown of concepts to make sure I was understanding them correctly, so it balanced out nicely. Pilling is not here to teach you economics 101, but he will clearly lay out why growth
Jul 26, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: economics
I don't normally read books about economy but this one covered a lot of aspects of what we think when we talk about growth and GDP (quite hefty too, 400-ish pages). Full review soon! ...more
May 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
The Growth Delusion was my first proper introduction to various models of economic measurement. Today GDP is taken as standard unit of growth. David Pilling has attempted to show us how our existing model of measuring growth and economic development (GDP) is flawed. For example, Any measure that values a gun several times more than a bottle of milk is bound to raise serious questions about its relevance to human progress (A question asked by HDI founding Pakistani economist Mahbub ul Haq). Other ...more
I can't quite remember why I got this - maybe a 3 for 2 Audible sale - but it didn't turn out to be what I expected. I thought it was going to be a critique of economic growth as a desideratum, given the unsustainable environmental impact. I'm glad it wasn't, since that would just have been preaching to the choir.

Rather, Pilling gives a history of the invention of GDP and discusses in detail its shortcomings. He does a really good job of illustrating that any index we might use will be inherentl
Dec 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
The question Mr Pilling considers here is a very straightforward one, and it is whether our statistics represents the measures we care about. In short, the answer is a resounding ‘no’ in the most important field — the economy — that we care about. It is suitable to be reviewing this going into a new year as the one New Year’s Greeting I listened to included pointed references to economic growth.

I have for a while now been disillusioned with GDP. GDP has its definite problems (though also its use
Kim Noel
Jan 27, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
GDP in the US has more than doubled since 2000, but we don't seem to be any happier with our lot. Huh? I thought it was the economy, stupid.

David Pilling addresses many of the questions I had about why the measures that economists and politicians tout, which deign to explain “how we are doing”, are not tracking with our lived experiences. I learned a lot from this book and recommend it to anyone who is interested in GDP, growth, wealth, well-being, and the pitfalls of measuring it all.

Pilling ma
Otto Lehto
Jul 03, 2019 rated it liked it
Lightweight, delightful, balanced. The book is no miracle, but it surveys the contemporary literature and debate around GDP in an evenhanded manner. Written by a journalist, the book carries the DNA of an extended midbrow journal article. Without much analytical depth, it scratches an itch without providing any lasting remedies.

Superficiality is a cost to be paid by attempting to appeal to the everyman, but few authors embrace the cautious, noncommittal middle position as ardently as Pilling doe
Anthony Watt
May 02, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Growth leads to death

Grow and grow and grow for infinity on a planet with finite resources and what happens? The death of humans as we know them now!

A bit dramatic perhaps but this book highlights the insanity of the way we live and measure. The lack of value placed on essential things and in the UK free things from the government like healthcare.

It doesn’t say what the magical measure is but it provides examples of better ways of measuring a successful country. We need to stop growing and becom
Mar 29, 2020 rated it liked it
truth in advertising--the jacket described this as a provocative book, and it was. Objectively argues for the need to consider new metrics to describe a nation's economy, augmenting the historical use of GDP, which considers too many factors, all of which are assumed to be positive. Compelling and thoughtful, particular as it related to prospective policy. ...more
Mar 14, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Interesting premise and well-rounded execution. A tale of GDP and its enormous flaws as a proxy for human well-being, and along with it a timely critique of progress and our insatiable thirst for it. Very fluid writing and an absolute joy to read, a rarity in economics books.
Mariann Tóth
Sep 21, 2020 rated it liked it
The title is quite misleading, I thought the book is on economic growth, its limits and other sustainibility issues. Unfotunately it was not the case, I could read hundreds of pages solely about GDP.
Mar 07, 2018 rated it really liked it
Does More Equal Happiness or Prosperity?

We are conditioned to look at GDP (Gross Domestic Product) as a measure of economic progress for the country. The economists love this number. It gives them a standard to measure against. But, for the average person what does the GDP say about our lives? Are we happier because it’s high? Is the quality of life better? These are interesting questions tackled by The Growth Delusion.

This book, while examining difficult economic concepts, is written for the a
Tunde Ajao
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Insightful, thoughtful and simple explanation of our obsession with growth and its possible downfalls. Good stories told from the point of view of an experienced journalist. I found it really accessible for a non-economist. And I learned a lot.
May 18, 2019 rated it really liked it
This book focused on the goal posts or metrics governments use to measure the success of their policies by using the GDP. The problem with this is it sweeps potentially catastrophic costs in the form of negative externalities on the people and portrays them as “Growth” right now the unemployment levels are below 4% but half the country, 46% can’t afford a 500$ emergency payment. When you turn on mainstream media, they keep saying “The economy is booming” for who? Who exactly is the economy boomi ...more
Mar 12, 2020 rated it liked it
A rare venture into the field of economics and David Pilling keeps the read entertaining and easy to digest. The premise and concept is one that should be shared and understood by all those who wish to understand government and politics beyond the headlines. One feels that the pertinent details could've been condensed to an essay. ...more
Tim Ellis
Oct 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I have read several books over the years about the stupidity of measuring national success by measuring growth of GDP, but this is far the best, being easy to follow, entertaining and straight to the point. Gross Domestic Product is the sum of all economic activity in a nation i.e. everything that is sold for money, and Pilling describes the history of this concept and how politicians have come erroneously to think that growth of GDP equates to national wellbeing. It doesn't of course: GDP inclu ...more
Sarah Clement
Nov 11, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is a comprehensive account of the problems with measuring wealth, particularly GDP, and the challenges of developing alternative, accurate, and reflective measures. What is - and is not - counted matters, and many of us know this, but it's not always clear what the best things to measure are. I have read quite a few books that discuss this, but this is by far the most digestible, entertaining, and well written book I have read on the topic. The reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5 is mainl ...more
Erol Baykal
Oct 02, 2018 rated it it was ok
First of all, I agree with the point that the author is trying to make. GDP appears to be a bad way to measure how well we are doing, and he makes a good case for this.

However, this could have been a much, much denser book. Maybe I am missing the point, but especially the middle part feels like one after another example of why we should not overlook social/environmental issues and wellbeing, which are not considered when calculating GDP. How often can this point be repeated? The GDP alternatives
Declan Waters
Some interesting thoughts and analysis of a review of GDP (Gross Domestic Product), its history, impact and flaws. The author by his own admission doesn't like GDP and 'growth' as the only measure of a country, an economy, or the world... He is fair about its advantages, its creator and its future in the suite of tools economists have.

Aimed at a reader with minimal knowledge of the economy, clearly laid out and easy to follow.
Rob Adey
Mar 27, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of those books by a journalist which just reads a bit too much like it's written by a journalist- and I guess that shouldn't be a problem, I just prefer book-length stuff to have a bit more gnarl to it. But! Good partial demolition of GDP, if a little reluctant to explore some of the more radical ways we could abandon it. ...more
Jan 15, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
Spilling offers us a highly readable account of economic growth and how we measure it. How and what we measure has great implications on policy and society, 'The Growth Delusion' is a valuable part of the conversation.

My copy was a gift through Goodreads First Reads.
Shahnawaz Haque
Talks about the flaws of GDP.The areas covered are much widely available in public domain and very little new information was present.Kuznets view is something that needs to be taken into account while redefining GDP 2.0 and rather that aimless growth.
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David Pilling has reported from at least 50 countries over two decades as a foreign correspondent working for the Financial Times. That probably makes him 50 times more confused than the average person, but it has also made him inquisitive and unafraid of asking dumb questions. Pilling became accustomed to writing about "the economy", "growth" and "GDP" early in his reporting career. But only as h ...more

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