It’s the Accounting, Stupid

August 14, 2012 | The New York Times' Economix Blog |

When I was a student, my English-major friends warned me that economists were people who didn’t have enough personality to become accountants. It seemed like a terrible accusation at the time. Today, I worry less about the personality than the efficacy of both professions.

A recent report from Demos summarizes longstanding concerns: Official calculations of gross domestic product ignore unpaid work, count spending on education as a form of consumption rather than investment and pretend that depletion of natural-resource stocks, pollution and global climate change are irrelevant to our economic scorecard.

Many smart economists have offered creative ways of addressing these problems. Progress on the technical front was particularly striking at the recent coordinated meetings of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth and the National Bureau of Economic Research Conference on Research on Income and Wealth in Cambridge, Mass.

Many smart economists have offered creative ways of addressing these problems. Progress on the technical front was particularly striking at the recent coordinated meetings of the International Association for Research in Income and Wealth and the National Bureau of Economic Research Conference on Research on Income and Wealth in Cambridge, Mass.