RE: Some Econ Pessimism?

Crosby_M (
Thu, 13 Feb 1997 19:32:29 -0500

Alexander Chislenko writes:
<I feel quite suspicious about all these statistics. They do not take
into account any new products and structural changes and economic and
social novelty. [Snip]

My personal quality of life increased immeasurably in the last
years, with the development of the Internet, and my understanding of

I have yet to see an indicator of progress that would take it into

You are correct, of course, about the statistics measuring "quantity
of resources spent" rather than "quality of the results". I work at
producing the Consumer Price Index and the CPI has been much in the
news lately for allegedly overstating inflation and failing to account
for many quality improvements.

The problem, of course, is that we measure what it is easiest to
measure and not necessarily what is it useful to measure.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (for which I work, and for which I am
not speaking in this post) admits that the CPI can only approximate a
Cost-of-Living Index. And even if we could achieve a true COLI it
would still not represent what Nina Munk, in Sep 14, 1992 Forbes
magazine article, called a "convenience-of-living index".

And even then, there is still the issue of what is important to *your*
quality of life vs. someone else's.
There is an excellent cartoon about these issues at
(by a guy called 'Tom Tomorrow' BTW!) where a guy who looks like Fred
Mertz from "I Love Lucy" says to his wife: "Well Martha, the bad news
is we can't afford to heat the house this winter -- but by God, if we
ever scrape up enough for a computer it'll have more processing power
than you ever dreamed possible."

Right now I'm heavily involved in trying to update the samples of
goods and services that are used to produce the CPI. We're trying to
bring in such things as online services and cellular phones for the
first time. However, these things change so fast that it's extremely
difficult to get a good sample.

MORE INTERESTING though, is your implied desire for a *personal*
quality of living index. Someday I'm hoping we get to the point where
you could subscribe to your own 'personal COLI' where you'd indicate
your geographic and demographic characteristics and, especially, which
categories of goods and services are most important for your own
needs, and the system would construct and weight a cost-of-living
index tailored specifically for you. Hmmm, maybe when I get tired of
working for the government I'll see if I can construct such a

Mark Crosby