I’ll bet that most of you think an increasing Gross National Product is a good thing for the country. Or maybe you don’t, and you’ve come to realize that GNP stands for Going Nowhere Prettyfast. Anyway, considering how GNP figures are calculated, it is clear that GNP may well be inversely proportional to national quality of life from a Catholic perspective:

“The slavery of economists to the omnipotent Market has resulted in their linking the rate of growth to ‘gross national product’ (GNP). If gross national product increases there is growth in the economy. And, since growth is always considered good, the more the GNP increases the more economists will speak of a ‘healthy economy’ and the more politicians will preen themselves on their success in bringing it about … GNP is the total price (not value, since value is qualitative not quantitative) of all the traded goods and services produced in a country during a year. Any economic activity that does not involve a monetary transaction is not included. On the other hand, any activity that involves the spending of money is included even if it has a detrimental effect in socio-economic terms. This produces a peculiar view of what is deemed ‘economic’.

Preparing meals at home is less ‘economic’ than eating at a restaurant because the latter activity contributes more to GNP. Similarly, all do-it-yourself economies around the home or on the car are in fact ‘uneconomic’ because more economic growth would be recorded if everyone employed builders or garages to do the work. Caring for elderly or disabled people at home within a loving family environment, where they are largely invisible economically, is less ‘economic’ than having their ‘price’ measured in a nursing home. In short, the more people are self-sufficient and not reliant on others, the less they are considered ‘economic’. The more they are dependent on others the higher will be their contribution to GNP. The absurdity of this state of affairs was illustrated by Alvin Toffler in The Third Wave:

‘With respect to pursuit of GNP, an amusing fantasy suggests that women undertake to do each other’s housework and pay each other for it. If every Susie Smith paid every Barbara Brown one hundred dollars a week for caring for her home and children, while receiving an equivalent amount for providing the same services in return, the impact on the Gross National Product would be astounding. If fifty million American housewives engaged in this nonsense transaction it would add about ten percent to the US GNP overnight.'”

— Joseph Pearce, Small is Still Beautiful