The Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which measures the dollar value of finished goods and services produced by an economy during a given period, serves as the chief indicator of the economic well-being of the United States. The GDP assumes that the economic significance of goods and services lies solely in their price, and that these goods and services add to the national well-being, not because of any intrinsic value they may possess, but simply because they were produced and bought. Additionally, only those goods and services involved in monetary transactions are included in the GDP. Thus, the GDP ignores the economic utility of such things as a clean environment and cohesive families and communities. It is therefore not merely coincidental, since national policies in capitalist and noncapitalist countries alike are dependent on indicators such as the GDP, that both the environment and the social structure have been eroded in recent decades. Not only does the GDP mask this erosion, it can actually portray it as an economic gain: an oil spill off a coastal region "adds" to the GDP because it generates commercial activity. In short, the nations central measure of economic well-being works like a calculating machine that adds but cannot subtract.

The primary purpose of the passage is to

• Aidentify ways in which the GDP could be modified so that it would serve as a more accurate indicator of the economic well being of the United States.
• Bsuggest that the GDP, in spite of certain shortcomings, is still the most reliable indicator of the economic well-being of the United States
• Cexamine crucial shortcomings of the GDP as an indicator of the economic well being of the United States
• Dargue that the growth of the United States economy in recent decades has diminished the effectiveness of the GDP as an indicator of the nations economic well-being.
• Ediscuss how the GDP came to be used as the primary indicator of the economic well being of the United States

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