Hilary Rosen, Ann Romney and the imperfect measure of economic output.

You have all heard Hilary Rosen’s comment that Ann Romney “never worked a day in her life”, and subsequent apology. You have all also probably heard the liberals saying she shouldn’t have apologized; as she was entirely right.

My take: Rosen was sort of right, but she spoke clumsily and was right to both clarify and apologize. But it’s not really Rosen’s fault. Nor is it Mrs. Romney’s fault. It’s not even Mr. Romney’s fault, although he was misleading people with the comments he made that started the whole thing. It’s Simon Kuznets’s fault. (I hate that tired, cliché ending: “the economist did it.”)

Kuznets invented the Gross Domestic Product, a measure of economic output which does not include household work. So, for this and other reasons, it is not an accurate measure of economic output. Kuznets himself said it was not a good measure of economic welfare, but he seems to have been ignored on that score.

So, what Rosen should have said by way of apologizing was: “Ann Romney has not done work that is counted in the widely-used measure for economic welfare. Therefore, her comments and advice aren’t relevant to women participating in the economy as it is presently measured by politicians and economists. I apologize for implying Mrs. Romney did no work at all.”

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