The title question occurred to me when I found out that the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) is going to magically increase U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to take "creative" endeavors into account (also known as "intangible goods").
Huzzah! America’s economy is around $400 billion bigger than you thought it was.
And the details of why include some really important lessons about the contributions that the creative class, including corporate research and development staff and America’s moviemakers, TV producers, and songwriters, make to the economy. Star Wars creator George Lucas and his counterparts, it turns out, are more important to growth than the numbers have previously captured.
The Bureau of Economic Analysis is doing a “comprehensive revision” of the data that form the raw material for gross domestic product, the most widely cited measure of how the economy is doing. And it appears that the numbers, due out this summer, will increase the size of the U.S. economy by about 3 percent (as Robin Harding of the Financial Times, who first reported the story, points out, that’s like tacking an extra Belgium onto the U.S. economy).
GDP is being revised right back to 1929, so it's all relative. The geniuses at NPR assure us that the size of GDP doesn't matter; it's the change in GDP that counts as we move forward.
The next step on the rocky road to Consciousness would require these public radio geniuses to realize that the change in GDP doesn't matter either. It's the quality of everyday life for Americans that truly matters. And if you ask them about the economy, 35% will tell you it sucks, and 18% will tell you conditions are "excellent or good." Last week, 42% of Americans said the economy is getting better, while 52% said it is getting worse.
GDP goes up and up while for most Americans, quality of life goes down and down. But I digress.
When [George Lucas] made a Star Wars movie, his company spent a lot of money to create the film. It then owned a copyright, and could make money for many years afterward on that investment. In other words, it’s a lot more like our washing machine company building a factory than it is like the routine process of making washing machines. The same is true for a lot of types of intellectual property: When Apple researchers develop the iPad, or Suzanne Collins writes a Hunger Games novel, it is an upfront investment that will have a long payoff.
So now BEA will treat research and development and creation of artistic works as longer-term investments, not unlike factories, equipment, or software...
Thus we learn that the "investment" made to create all this mediocre horseshit (like Star Wars or The Hunger Games), which passes for "art" in contemporary America, will now be accounted for in calculating GDP. I suppose that's fitting & proper because all of this crap was designed to make money, just like manufacturing robots or games software. I hope "artists" like George Lucas, who is a lousy filmmaker, will not object if I say that. But of course, when he made Star Wars back in the 1970s, he was trying to sell Luke Skywalker action figures.
And sell them he did! They are collectors items now, still boosting GDP.
See my recent post The American Fantasy World for a high-level view this nightmare.
I wonder how much GDP was boosted by the "investment" made by jazz pianist Brad Mehldau—an actual genius—and his producer Jon Brion—another genius—to make the album Highway Rider. I'll wager that "investment" didn't raise GDP as much as Lady Gaga did when she made the videos for The Fame Monster. And Mehldau often has to play outside the United States to get gigs and make a living, so that doesn't help GDP much
Which brings me back to the title question: does writing DOTE add to GDP?
I've got to admit it, DOTE does not look good from a GDP point of view. After all, I write it for nothing and you read it for free. Some readers are kind enough to support my work by sending donations, and I'm grateful for that, but believe me when I tell you that those donations are not enough to make much of a dent in GDP.
Well, I guess that's bad news, and there's more where that came from. As you watch the Brad Mehldau video, imagine GDP faltering.
But there's plenty of good news. As you watch Lady Gaga, imagine GDP going up and up and up...