Archive for January, 2010

The cult of growth

January 5, 2010

George Monbiot’s article in today’s Guardian features a critique of the media’s handling of economic growth which is so spot-on it’s worth quoting in full:

“As the Guardian revealed yesterday, the British government is now split over product placement in TV programmes: if it implements the policy proposed by Ben Bradshaw, the culture secretary, plots will revolve around chocolates and cheeseburgers and ads will be impossible to filter, perhaps even to detect. Mr Bradshaw must know that this indoctrination won’t make us happier, wiser, greener or leaner; but it will make the television companies £140m a year.

“Though we know they aren’t the same, we can’t help conflating growth and well-being. Last week, for example, the Guardian carried the headline “UK standard of living drops below 2005 level”. But the story had nothing to do with our standard of living. Instead it reported that per capita gross domestic product is lower than it was in 2005. GDP is a measure of economic activity, not standard of living. But the terms are confused so often that journalists now treat them as synonyms. The low retail sales of previous months were recently described by this paper as “bleak” and “gloomy”. High sales are always “good news”, low sales are always “bad news”, even if the product on offer is farmyard porn. I believe it’s time that the Guardian challenged this biased reporting.”