GDP is hyped-up to be an all-important measure of economic activity. It does not measure economic activity, instead recording meaningless money-totals spent in unsound currency over a given period. A bad statistic such as GDP is wide open to official manipulation, and there is always a desire to enhance it. GDP-B, which includes an estimated consumer surplus, appears to conform with this desire. If it is successfully introduced, GDP would be substantially increased, making governments look good, and reducing their debt to GDP ratios. However, it is no more than a statistical cheat.
Gross Domestic Product-B attempts to capture the added value of things we don’t pay for, such as Facebook, WhatsApp, Google and other digital services free to the user. B stands for benefits; the benefits consumers receive from free and subsidised services. It was devised by Erik Brynjolfsson, a professor at MIT, and is a work-in-progress. He points out that according to the US Bureau of Economic Affairs, the information sector in GDP statistics has been stuck at between four and five per cent of GDP for the last twenty-five years. Yet, the importance of this mainly digital sector now dominates both work and leisure activities, benefits not recorded in GDP.