Using Prostitutes and Drug Dealers to Boost GDP

As you may have heard in the news yesterday, the economy actually contracted in the first quarter. Of course, we are given many assurances that this is nothing to worry about. It only happened, we are told, because of all that cold weather. (So, if cold weather is such a strain on the economy, global warming should be an economic boost, right?) We are promised that the economy has started growing again.

The truth is that the GDP growth doesn’t really mean a growing economy. The numbers are meaningless. While it is really bad when the numbers go negative, even low positive numbers are bad. Now that we have such low growth, governments are scrambling for ways to add to the numbers to make the economy look a little bit better.

Thus, Britain is now taking steps to include the “economic contribution” of prostitutes and drug dealers so that the Office of National Statistics can claim that the economy is doing better. According to the Guardian,

For the first time official statisticians are measuring the value to the UK economy of sex work and drug dealing – and they have discovered these unsavoury hidden-economy trades make roughly the same contribution as farming – and only slightly less than book and newspaper publishers added together.

Illegal drugs and prostitution boosted the economy by £9.7bn – equal to 0.7% of gross domestic product – in 2009, according to the ONS’s first official estimate.

A breakdown of the data shows sex work generated £5.3bn for the economy that year, with another £4.4bn lift from a combination of cannabis, heroin, powder cocaine, crack cocaine, ecstasy and amphetamines.

According to the estimates there were 60,879 prostitutes in the UK in 2009, who had an average of 25 clients per week – each paying on average £67.16 per visit.

There is also detailed data on drugs. The statisticians reckon there were 2.2 million cannabis users in the UK in 2009, toking their way through weed worth more than £1.2bn. They calculate that half of that was home-grown – costing £154m in heat, light and “raw materials” to produce.

The ONS will work in the coming months to bring the data more up to date. The figures will then be included in the broad category of household spending on “miscellaneous goods and services” alongside life insurance, personal care products and post office charges.

The more inclusive approach brings the ONS into line with European Union rules, and will eventually allow comparisons of the size of the shadow economy in different member states.

That last paragraph tells us that most other European nations are engaged in the same attempt to boost the numbers. How long do you think it will be before U.S. officials start using drug dealers and call girls to help raise the GDP and avoid admitting that we are in a recession.

Doing so would also allow them to claim a higher employment rate since all these prostitutes and drug dealers undoubtedly qualify as “self-employed.”