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Looking back at 2011

by Elaine Schwartz    •    Dec 22, 2011    •    TIME TO READ: 1 minute

After looking at these 18 charts, I thought, what you learn depends on whom you ask. Created by Washington Post journalist Ezra Klein, the slide show is from “some of his favorite economists” who were asked for “the graph that had done the most to influence their thinking in 2011.”

My concern is that the topics are precisely what you would expect. Most focus on the U.S. budget, health care, debt, jobs, inequality, interest rates. Even when targeting the developing world, the connection is their savings feeding our debt. Tyler Cowen’s graph is the only chart that relates to innovation.

Yes, I do recommend looking at the 18 charts for a quick summary of key issues. However, if you ignored headline topics about the U.S., where would you focus?

The Economic Lesson

Economist Michael Mandel has said that our economic yardsticks shape our problem solving. The GDP, for example–a total of investment (tools, equipment types of items–not stock market), consumer spending, government spending and exports minus imports–insufficiently focuses on key areas of local and globally interwoven activity.

His point?  What we measure determines government policy. 

An economic question: If you were creating 10 charts that not only looked back on 2011 but would take our focus forward productively, which topics would you select? 

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