In this article, David Francis of the Christian Science Monitor does a decent job of poking holes in a recent study that shows European nations lag the United States in gross domestic product. Here are a few examples he cites of why GDP is a poor indicator of societal performance.

– Defense budget: In 2004, the US GDP will be boosted by close to $800 billion spent on defense. (“Counting just the military’s budget, the US spends nearly the same amount on defense as the rest of the world combined.”)

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  • – Health spending: The US uses about 15 percent of GDP on health, compared to less than 10 percent in Europe, and we still have 43 million people under 65 who are uninsured. We also have poorer health outcomes than many industrialized countries. (See below.)

    – The vacation factor: Europeans take far longer vacations, which could subtract from GDP.

    Ready for a gross national happiness indicator yet?