A provocative critique of the pieties and fallacies of our obsession with economic growth

We live in a society in which a priesthood of economists, wielding impenetrable mathematical formulas, set the framework for public debate. Ultimately, it is the perceived health of the economy which determines how much we can spend on our schools, highways, and defense; economists decide how much unemployment is acceptable and whether it is right to print money or bail out profligate banks. 

The backlash we are currently witnessing suggests that people are turning against the experts and their faulty understanding of our lives. Despite decades of steady economic growth, many citizens feel more pessimistic than ever, and are voting for candidates who voice undisguised contempt for the technocratic elite. For too long, economics has relied on a language which fails to resonate with people's actual experience, and we are now living with the consequences.

In this powerful, incisive book, David Pilling reveals the hidden biases of economic orthodoxy and explores the alternatives to GDP, from measures of wealth, equality, and sustainability to measures of subjective wellbeing. Authoritative, provocative, and eye-opening, The Growth Delusion offers witty and unexpected insights into how our society can respond to the needs of real people instead of pursuing growth at any cost.
"Masterful. . . . Rarely does a study of gross domestic product (GDP) and growth sizzle with such wit and acuity, but Financial Times editor David Pilling manages the feat." Nature

“Engaging and enlightening, The Growth Delusion explains not only why the emperor has no clothes, but why he wasn’t really the emperor in the first place.” —David Mitchell, author of Cloud Atlas

"The Fed needs to read this economics book.” Forbes

“It’s not often, as in ‘never,’ that I’ve been able to recommend a book about economic measurement that’s both important and downright entertaining. Yet, in The Growth Delusion that’s precisely what author David Pilling provides.” —Jared Bernstein, The Washington Post

“Engaging and fast-paced. . . . A wonderfully cosmopolitan survey.” —Adam Tooze, The Guardian

"Briskly and engagingly, David Pilling alerts us to our impoverished sense of reality in an age that has sacrificed quality to quantity. The Growth Delusion should be read by everyone who wants to make sense of the political earthquakes of our time." —Pankaj Mishra, author of Age of Anger

"David Pilling is a witty, well-informed, and well-traveled guide to our obsession with growth, even when it is poorly defined or fails to measure what we care about. He appreciates what growth has done for so many, but his skepticism about GDP—and its alternatives—is an invaluable primer as we try to do better. If he sometimes makes fun of measurement, he also makes measurement fun. A real achievement." —Angus Deaton, Winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics

The Growth Delusion goes straight to the heart of the matter. . . . With the eye of a seasoned journalist, Pilling colourfully captures why it is that GDP is such a quirky—some might say downright misleading—statistic.” —Felix Martin, The Financial Times

“An informative and sometimes humorous book. . . . When it comes to the economy, Pilling argues, officials and leaders should pay a little more attention to quality and a little less to quantity.” Foreign Affairs

“An excellent and timely book which should be mandatory reading for policymakers, economists, investors, and, yes, journalists. It exposes the folly of our reliance on a narrow concept of economics as a sign of well-being—and does this in a lively, well written, and easy-to-understand way that draws on Pilling's long career around the world. Most important of all, it offers a series of sensible ideas about how to improve our sense of economics—and embrace better yardsticks to measure the world.”Gillian Tett, author of The Silo Effect

"If you thought that GDP did not necessarily translate into increased welfare, David Pilling shows convincingly why you were right. One of the Financial Times's most brilliant columnists, Pilling has produced a book that will become a classic."Jagdish Bhagwati, author of Why Growth Matters

"A timely warning about how fast the global economy is speeding towards a range of dangerous roadblocks—climate change, populism, financial crises." —The Times Literary Supplement

“In The Growth Delusion, Pilling makes an important yet complicated subject accessible to experts and non-experts alike. The book offers a most insightful and at times witty guide to the essential question: what precisely is economic growth for, and how can it be harnessed to improve the lives of people in poor countries as well as rich ones?” —Kofi Annan, former Secretary-General of the UN