Rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.
Wednesday, August 27, 2014
What’s Gross About Europe’s GDP?
photo of vintage Bayer heroin bottle by Mpv_51
The following appeared in a Times article entitled “Sizing up Black Markets and Red-Light Districts for G.D.P,” (NYT, 7/9/14): “The point of
counting everything, including the wages of sin, is to get a more accurate
reading of each country’s gross domestic product.” The gist of Liz Alderman’s
piece was to show the extent to which European countries are willing to go
“to reduce debt as a percentage of their economies,” which might mean not
simply reducing debt but finding extra shekels of productivity in places that
might not normally have been counted. So the key word becomes “gross,” which according to Merriam-Webster can mean “rude and offensive” or “very
disgusting” or when used in the context of the GDP as defined by the OECD, “an aggregate measure of production equal to the sum of the gross values added
of all resident institutional units engaged in production (plus any taxes, and
minus any subsidies, on products not included in the value of their
outputs)," One can’t avoid the significance of the double entendre. What is it
saying about Europe’s economic prospects if gross elements like sexual slavery
(which must be counted in with prostitution) and drug addiction become
necessary to avoid having certain countries falling below the permissible
amount of debt for the size of their economies? Sure it’s fun to play with
words, but the little anecdote Alderman describes at the beginning of the piece
where one Jose Roca, “the spokesman for the National Association of Sex Clubs
in Spain…received a call late last year from the government statistical
agency.” What will come next, will the leaders of criminal organizations like
the Italian mafia be interviewed? Will the fees paid to hit men, no matter how
gross, be considered part of the gross national product? Will illegal weapons
production be counted? Will terrorism be deemed a quantifiable activity that
can help in establishing the solvency of a country?
Francis Levy's debut novel, Erotomania: A Romance, was released in August 2008 by Two Dollar Radio.
His short stories, criticism, humor, and poetry have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The New Republic, The Village Voice, The East Hampton Star, The Quarterly, Penthouse, Architectural Digest, TV Guide, The Journal of Irreproducible Results, and other publications. One of his Voice humor pieces was anthologized in The Big Book of New American Humor (HarperCollins). He is presently the Co-Director of The Philoctetes Center for the Multidisciplinary Study of Imagination (philoctetes.org), where he supervises roundtable discussions on topics as varied as “The Psychology of the Modern Nation State” and “Modern Traffic Theory, Behavior, and Imagination”.