GDP and Other Mysteries

An Interview with Zachary Karabell

The statistics that drive our big-picture economic thinking — GDP, unemployment figures, and inflation rates, among others — have come to be regarded as nearly sacrosanct. Investors, policymakers, and everyday consumers rely on them to make decisions trivial and earthshaking alike, often measured in trillions of dollars. Zachary Karabell, in his book The Leading Indicators: A Short History of the Numbers That Rule Our World, traces the history of these numbers and questions how useful they actually are.

Octavian Report: The Leading Indicators examines the history, uses, and misuses of major economic statistics. How did you choose this topic?

Zachary Karabell: We’ve come to live in this world that is intimately shaped by a very limited set of numbers, and …

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