It’s long been said that GDP isn’t a good measure of how well we’re really doing. This is true. GDP measures what GDP measures an’ as long as we understand this then we’re fine. It’s when we try to use it as the only measure of advance that we fall into error.
Cervical cancer rates have fallen 90 per per cent among young women after the introduction of the human papillomavirus (HPV) jab for teenagers, research published in the Lancet shows.
The study is the first to examine the rollout of the immunisation programme, which began in schools in 2008. It found the jabs have stopped hundreds of young women from developing the disease, and thousands from experiencing pre-cancerous changes that can lead to it.
The King’s College London study found the programme had now “almost eliminated cervical cancer and cervical pre-cancer” in women aged 25 and under.
The costs of treating those cancer cases, when they used to occur, were part of GDP. The costs of the vaccines are also part of GDP. But we all agree that the costs of the vaccines are lower, in any real sense, than the costs of the cancer treatments. That is, the benefits of the program are higher than the costs, we’re all, in aggregate, better off.
But exactly that bettreoffness is just what GDP doesn’t capture. Sisters, wives, girlfriends, – to say nothing of the private benefits to those same women themselves not dying – not dying of horrible cancers in their 20s is getting richer.
But GDP is counting the loss of GDP from the reduction in the costs of treating the cancers, then adding back in the costs of making the vaccines. No, I don’t know the exact balance here – recall, we only know this about women in their 20s as yet – right now but over the next 50 years this will obviously turn up as a *reduction* in GDP. ‘Coz we’ve already said that vaccination is cheaper than treatment. Even before those lovely benefits of not dying horrible deaths.
Note the implication of this. People who look just at wages, adjusted for inflation, as a measure of how well we’re doing are going to be wrong. Or GDP per capita. Because the usual critiques of GDP are correct – it doesn’t include everything that’s valuable.