7 Measuring and Compiling Wealth

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics

Attributed to Mark Twain “Chapters from my autobiography” North Am. Review, September 1907

The diversity of situations and innovations marks today’s economy. The preceding chapters have illustrated the nature, importance and ambitions of the changes brought about by digital technology. The major indicators that have been designed and produced since the 1940s are supposed to give politicians and society the image of economic activity; are they always congruent with the modern economy, its variety and its global approach to customers and needs? Are they able to account for the effect of digital technologies on the economic and social organization of contemporary society1?

We are all the less certain of this since many signals lead us to partly question the aggregated data on which most political analyses are based. This doubt is not very new; it has appeared regularly in the literature for about thirty years, and is expressed by various questions: do national accounts underestimate the effect of technology? Do they accurately reflect all of today’s activities, especially those that primarily consist of services? Are their metrics compatible with those used to guide business investment and management, particularly in their international aspects?

The main objective of this chapter is to identify and analyze elements that, through various means, could distort our understanding of the ...

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