By Éloi Laurent
Never before in human history have we produced so much data, and this empirical revolution has shaped economic research and policy profoundly. But are we measuring, and thus managing, the right things—those that will help us solve the real social, economic, political, and environmental challenges of the twenty-first century? In Measuring Tomorrow, Éloi Laurent argues that we need to move away from narrowly useful metrics such as gross domestic product and instead use broader ones that aim at well-being, resilience, and sustainability. By doing so, countries will be able to shift their focus away from infinite and unrealistic growth and toward social justice and quality of life for their citizens.
The time has come for these broader metrics to become more than just descriptive, Laurent argues; applied carefully by private and public decision makers, they can foster genuine progress. He begins by taking stock of the booming field of well-being and sustainability indicators, and explains the insights that the best of these can offer. He then shows how these indicators can be used to develop new policies, from the local to the global.
An essential resource for scholars, students, and policymakers, Measuring Tomorrow covers all aspects of well-being—including health, education, and the environment—and incorporates a broad range of data and fascinating case studies from around the world: not just the United States and Europe but also China, Africa, the Middle East, and India.
"This new book [...] is a welcome addition to a growing body of new economic literature presenting constructive ideas on re-thinking the economy, particularly in the context of climate change. Laurent offers a degree of optimism and opportunity in a subject matter frequently dominated by disaster narratives. Measuring Tomorrow clearly takes the perspective of economic data and indicators in the ‘re-think’ debate. Yet, it has overlaps with Marjorie Kelly’s (2012) ideas on ‘generative ownership’ when discussing ‘valuing what counts’ (Chapter 14) and complements the propositions made by Kate Raworth (2014) on sustainability and wellbeing in Doughnut Economics, when making the case for future resistant indicators (Chapter 2) on wellbeing and sustainability (Chapters 3-13). Last but not least, it deconstructs the validity of the GDP indicator as the overarching measure of economic performance, which might lead humanity totally astray in search of stability and happiness, just like Diane Coyle (2011) questioned it in The Economics of Enough. The careful and comprehensive historical tracing of dominant economic indicators and underlying datasets is embedded within a broader debate on assumptions and beliefs about what the economy is and what its fundamental mandate should be."
Table of Contents of Measuring Tomorrow
- Introduction: Values, Data and Indicators
Part I - The New Empirical Order: How Indicators (Mis)Rule Our Economic World
- The Ascent of "Datanomics": The Case of the European Union
- Good and Bad Indicators: The Case of GDP
Part II - Mapping and Measuring Well-being and Sustainability in the Twenty-First Century
- Materials Flows
- State of the Biosphere
- Environmental Performance
Part III - Managing the Well-being and Sustainability Tradition
- Valuing What Counts
- Engaging Citizens
- Building Tangible and Resilient Transitions
- Conclusion - Beyond the (End of) Growth: Grasping Our Social-Ecological World
About Éloi Laurent
Éloi Laurent is senior economist at the Sciences Po Centre for Economic Research (OFCE) in Paris. He also teaches at Stanford University and has been a visiting professor at Harvard University. He is the author or editor of fifteen books.