From the reading list: A history of the GDP, the world's dominant economic indicator
The power of a single number to move markets and shape the financial policies and political dialogue of entire nations is demonstrated repeatedly every time the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is reported. Its calculation typically involves a massive amount of data that is subjected to a complex calculation in an effort to distill the immensity of a national (or regional) economy into one data point of exceptional density.
GDP has been the most powerful economic indicator -- the yardstick of choice for economic development and progress -- since the middle of the twentieth century. It's dominant position has often been attacked, any many efforts have been made to develop alternative or supplementary indicators that would communicate a more holistic view of economic development.
Yet the GDP endures, and much of the reason for that can be found in the history of the GDP's development, refinement and usage. We appreciate Professor Philipp Lepenies' history of the GDP, The Power of a Single Number, published last year, for its account of that history, and recommend it to anyone interested in the theory or practice of economic measurement.