Must-read: Chris Dillow: “Innovation and Well-Being”

Chris Dillow: Innovation and Well-Being: “Diane Coyle and Emily Skarbeck point out that…

…‘the way GDP is measured makes it impossible to capture fully the effect of innovation’ [as] GDP data don’t capture ‘the explosion in variety’…. [But] not only does innovation not appear in the GDP statistics, it doesn’t appear in subjective well-being statistics either. The OECD has reported (pdf) that the UK ‘experienced no consistent change’ in life satisfaction between the mid-70s and late 00s, and the ONS estimates (pdf) no change since then either….

Here are two theories. First… ‘more of the same’ gives us increases in real incomes in a steady environment…. Increases in variety, however, entail creative destruction… generates uncertainty for workers. And many (pdf) people hate uncertainty…. Second… as variety increases, so too does opportunity cost: we can’t afford both the new phone and the PS4, or if we’re holidaying in the Maldives, we can’t be in Dubai. Variety brings with it regret…. I don’t say this to deprecate increased variety…. Intuitively, it seems to me that variety must be a great good…. Perhaps… not only is GDP an inadequate measure of a healthy economy, but so too in some respects are measures of subjective well-being.


Brad DeLong
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