Dimensions: 304 pages, 9 × 6.12 × 1.1 in
Published: February 11, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
The following ISBNs are associated with this title:
ISBN - 10: 1451651201
ISBN - 13: 9781451651201
Read from the Book
The Leading Indicators INTRODUCTION What if I told you that many of the assumptions we make about our economic life are wrong? What if those assumptions shaped our domestic economic policies? What if they determined core aspects of our international strategy? What if they bolstered the deep and intractable funk that seized the developed world after the financial crisis of 2008–09? What if indeed. We live in a world defined by economic numbers. We assess how we are doing personally and collectively based on what these numbers say. How fast our country is growing economically or how slow, how much prices are increasing, how much income we have, whether we are employed—these numbers rule our world. We treat our economic statistics as absolute markers of our success or failure. None of these numbers, however, existed a century ago. Most of them didn’t exist in 1950. Yet we enshrine them almost as laws of nature. Take two recent examples: in 2012, the unemployment rate was a central factor in the US presidential election. It was widely reported that no president had ever been reelected with an unemployment rate more than 7.2%. The monthly release of the unemployment report became one of the most watched events that summer and fall, and each new number ushered in assertions that the economy was recovering and accusations that it was not. Through election day, the rate never dropped to that supposedly portentous 7.2% level, and was hovering close to 8% when Barack
From the Publisher
We are bombarded every day with numbers that tell us how we are doing, whether the economy is growing or shrinking, whether the future looks bright or dim. Gross national product, balance of trade, unemployment, inflation, and consumer confidence guide our actions, yet few of us know where these numbers come from, what they mean, or why they rule our world.
In The Leading Indicators, Zachary Karabell tells the fascinating history of these indicators. They were invented in the mid-twentieth century to address the urgent challenges of the Great Depression, World War II, and the Cold War. They were rough measures— designed to give clarity in a data-parched world that was made up of centralized, industrial nations—yet we still rely on them today.
We live in a world shaped by information technology and the borderless flow of capital and goods. When we follow a 1950s road map for a twenty-first-century world, we shouldn’t be surprised if we get lost.
What is urgently needed, Karabell makes clear, is not that we invent a new set of numbers but that we tap into the thriving data revolution, which offers unparalleled access to the information we need. Companies should not base their business plans on GDP projections; individuals should not decide whether to buy a home or get a degree based on the national unemployment rate. If you want to buy a home, look for a job, start a company, or run a business, you should find your own indicators. National housing figures don’t matter; local ones do. You can find them at the click of a button. Personal, made-to-order indicators will meet our needs today, and the revolution is well underway. We need only to join it.
“An amusing and eye-opening romp through the history of the powerful numbers, such as the unemployment and inflation rates, that influence the course of national policy. They’re not only out of date, they often point us in the wrong direction. Karabell’s surprising book shows that we don’t know what we think we know, and trillions of dollars hang in the balance.”