How a Sober Economist Invented The Economy

A brief history of how we’ve come to measure countries thanks to a man named Simon

woman selling fish
Photo by Devi Puspita Amartha Yahya on Unsplash

Enter a Man Named Simon

You can use Google to search through old books for the phrase ‘the economy’,” says Zachary. “If you do that, what you find is the following. In 1700, basically nothing. 1800? nothing. 1900? nothing.”

Everything a Country Makes = GDP = The Economy (Sort of)

Adding up this stuff is harder than it sounds. First of all, you have to figure out everything you need to count.

National Income Becomes an Overnight Sensation

National income is an answer to these basic questions:

The Test of WWII

This new idea that economists and the government could control this new thing called ‘the economy’ was about to be tested.

GDP Revolution

Many people have said that the invention of GDP was one of the prime factors in the allies winning the war. The ability to, with some confidence, dedicate these resources was crucial.

GDP Today

In the end, what should we make of it? What does GDP really do?

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