A cold has turned my brain to cotton wool over the weekend, but I have been paging through a pamphlet that turned up courtesy of Abe Books, National Income and Expenditure by J.E.Meade and Richard Stone. (I’ve got the 4th, 1957 edition; it was first published in 1944.) This is research for my next book, which is about GDP – contain your excitement. Modern national accounts manuals run to hundreds of dense pages. This first, crystal clear, description is 44 pages long.
It is startling, too, to be reminded how much the economy has changed. In 1954, personal consumer expenditure on food amounted to 21% of GNP at market prices, spending on communication services 0.45%. The percentages in 2011 were 5.5% and 1.3% respectively. Spending on clothing is down as a share, spending on entertainment up. We are living in difficult times, but these changed patterns are the measure of prosperity since the first systematic work on national accounts. It’s just as well that what might turn out to be a decade of GDP going backward came after a half-century going forward.