Business & Finance: How Big, Really?

How much has the U.S. output in real goods grown since 1929? Last week the Department of Commerce announced the gain: 75%. It was less than half the increase shown by dollar figures, largely because of the drop in the dollar's purchasing power.

To make its computation, the department picked 1939 as a reasonable norm between prosperity and depression, and used that year's purchasing power of the dollar as a base. With this measuring stick, said the department, the gross national product for 1929 was $85.9 billion, instead of the actual dollar figure of $103.8 billion. The gross national product for 1950...

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