What would Genuine Progress In Frederick County look like?

In 2011, Maryland adopted the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) model to more accurately assess gains within the state expressed in terms of sustainability and livability; moving forward from the old economic model of Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which simply measures the total of all products and services sold, or more succinctly: Gross State Product (GSP).

What is the Genuine Progress Indicator?

The GPI takes the GSP and subtracts or adds according to foreseeable outcomes based on a number of known economic, environmental and social impacts. Here is the list from the Maryland Genuine Progress Indicator:


Without getting too bogged down in the details now, consider a scenario for a Frederick County citizen who lives here with his family because he enjoys the quality of life, could afford a nice home, appreciates the quality of the schools, etc. To do that, he commutes down the road to DC or Northern Virginia to a job that offers a high salary or simply isn’t available here. He is willing to make some sacrifices, including the stressful commute and less time with his family, community activities and more. It also means more wear and tear on his car, and more spent on gas. Out of the options available to him, those are his personal choices.

There are also negative effects on the broader community and taxpayers at large when we take into account the large number of people making similar choices and commutes, using the roads, consuming gasoline and adding to emissions. Things like fuel consumption rates, the cost of road road construction and maintenance, and a variety of related impacts are relatively easy to quantify. It’s somewhat harder to measure all the costs of things such as reduced air quality, but there are economic and environmental metrics for these as well.

The commuter’s loss of leisure time, his reduced time with his family and inability to participate as much in community activities are not as easily measured, but the GPI has formulae to take these effects into account.


Why haven’t you heard of the Genuine Progress Indicator?

In some ways, you have, but not from Frederick County government. Frederick County citizens have been vigorously using the GPI, even if mostly without being aware of it. All over our county, people have been doing the research, calculating the impacts of various policy proposals, evaluating real choices, and lending their personal experience and common sense toward a collective GPI to address some the most poignant issues facing us. Examples include the approved Waste to Energy Incinerator (WTE), the Sale of Citizens and Montevue, year after year of Maintenance of Effort (MOE) funding of our Frederick County Public Schools, income inequality, homelessness and poverty, inadequate affordable housing, the implementation of 287-G, protecting our watersheds, conserving farmland, parks and natural areas, poorly planned development, inadequate infrastructure, roads and traffic, the gas compressor station in Myersville, and more.

In these instances, citizens have performed their own GPI analysis.

They know the WTE incinerator is not viable economically or environmentally. It is contrary to the stated aims of the State of Maryland in achieving better air and water quality. The incinerator would generate negative effects we would have to deal with for years to come, when we can utilize better strategies to avoid the problems and risk altogether, reducing costs and maintaining local control — and choices — within the county rather than ceding it to an outside corporation.

Frederick County citizens have fought diligently to stop the sale of Citizens Care and Rehabilitation Center and the Montevue Assisted Living facility. Not only are the financial implications not salient, the ethical consideration of selling the property is an affront to the manner in which the county received it as a land grant for the express purpose of helping the poor and the elderly. These are only two examples of the time and energy and talent invested by county residents to assess, in real terms, things that are of importance to our quality of life and fiscal health.

In each and every instance the citizens have substantiated their positions. And repeatedly, the Citizen CPI has been in opposition to the choices and actions of the present Board of County Commissioners.

Why haven’t the negative externalities that concern the majority of our citizens been taken into account within the scope of the governance of our county? (A negative externality is defined as the cost that affects a party or parties who did not choose to incur that cost.) This is a good question to ask, along with considering who benefits in the short term.

The Citizen GPI input on many issues has been extensive. The county does not benefit from the proposed sale of Citizens and Montevue, nor will we benefit from the construction of the incinerator, or the buildout of Monrovia Town Center as it has been planned, or funding education at the minimum allowed by state law. There may be a small contingent that will benefit, but the rest of us will feel the effects, and pay the bills. In other words, the current trajectory is to privatize the profits and foist most of the infrastructure costs and environmental fallout onto the citizens and taxpayers of the county.

And it is clear that is not going to change under the current leadership of Frederick County.

More Information

Maryland’s Genuine Progress Indicator
Wealth vs Well-Being: How Do We Measure Prosperity

Genuine Progress: Moving Beyond GDP
Genuine Progress: Moving Beyond GDP on Facebook
Genuine Progress on Twitter
Download the report Closing the Inequality Divide in Maryland, as a pdf file.

Washington Post
Why we should abolish the GDP
The ubiquitous measure obscures the true costs of growth.

June 5, 2014

How Maryland Is Envisioning An Economic Future Beyond GDP
June 19, 2013

Finding GDP alternatives to quantify ‘unpriceable’ prosperity
April 28, 2014

Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy
Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy on Facebook
Center for the Advancement of the Steady State Economy on Twitter
Column: GDP: The Infinite Planet Indicator

BEYOND GDP: New Measures for a New Economy
January 26, 2012

Download the full report as a pdf file here.


• GDP does not distinguish between spending on bad things and spending on good things. By this measurement, the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico “positively” contributed to the economy just like the many good and services that people actually want or need.

• GDP doesn’t account for the distribution of growth. Our total national income has doubled over thirty years, and so has the share of national income going to the wealthiest households, but average households have seen little or no income gains. GDP doesn’t care if growth is captured by a few or widely shared.

•GDP doesn’t account for depletion of natural capital and ecosystem services. If all the fish in the sea are caught and sold next year, global GDP would see a big boost while the fishing industry itself would completely collapse.

• GDP doesn’t reflect things that have no market price but are good for our society, like volunteer work, parenting in the home, and public investments in education and research.


Click on the image to open a slightly larger version.