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Professor: Recession not as bad in context
Expert cites GDP data
Economics professor Joel Potter compared the world’s GDP in 1950 and 2010 during a lecture Thursday. - photo by Jennifer Sami
Great Decisions 2010

• When: 6:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesdays

• Where: Hampton Park Library, 5345 Settingdown Road


• Week 3: Russia and its

• Week 4: The Persian Gulf

• Week 5: Peace building and conflict resolution
• Week 6: Global crime
The global economy is less glum if you compare apples to, well, apples.

Economics professor Joel Potter used the fruit as a tangible way to quantify the real gross domestic product, or GDP, when he spoke Wednesday as part of North Georgia College & State University’s Great Decisions lecture series.

In 2008, Potter said, the world had 100 apples. In 2009, that number dropped to 99 apples. But in 1950, there were 28 apples.

“I think it’s very important to put this stuff in perspective,” he said. “People are not much worse off in a material sense.”

Potter’s lecture at the new Hampton Park Library focused on GDP, which is the market value of all final goods and services produced annually in a region.

America’s GDP per person of $45,000 is substantially more than the $10,000 world rate. In the past 59 years, the world’s real GDP has increased by 855 percent.

The country’s economy has gradually increased every year since 1950. The first drop wasn’t until the 1 percent dip in 2009 — far from the Great Depression when the economy dropped to a level it hadn’t seen in about 35 years.

“We expected to grow in 2009, except there was a recession and for the average world citizen how much did that knock us back by? Back to 2007,” Potter said. “Is that anything comparable to the Great Depression? My message tonight may be a little bit positive.”

Potter’s lecture, titled the Global Financial Crisis, didn’t delve much into the unemployment rate, banking industry, national debt or the future of the country’s economy.

“I was thinking it was going to be that, but this was good,” said attendee Dan Wolf. “I didn’t come with thoughts about real, global GDP and its distribution. I thought it was all going to be about the monetary crisis.

“But I think it was not only a positive perspective, I think it gives a very good point of reference for people to think about where they are within their material blessings ... I think it was a useful beginning point.”

Potter’s lecture was the second of six in the series. The first, U.S.-China security relations, was held last week.

Next week’s presentation will be on “Russia and its neighbors.” Other topics include the Persian Gulf, peace building and conflict resolution and global crime.

Each lecture is set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Hampton Park Library. The series is also being held at the Gainesville Civic Center on Mondays at the same time.

The series is the first for North Georgia. Great Decisions was started in 1954 as the cornerstone of the Foreign Policy Association, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization working to help the public to learn more about the world.

The series is drawing crowds to the new library branch, which opened earlier this month. About 50 people attended Wednesday’s session.

“In the library world, we’ve mostly been geared toward the younger people, but now we’re starting to balance it out,” said Jon McDaniel, director of Forsyth’s library system. “This is our first really big adult program that’s come from the outside.

“This is a market we can tap into more now. Before when times were good, people had so many options. They’d go to a Braves game or something. But now people are looking more locally.”

Mary Jane Simpson attended the first two lectures and plans to return for the next four.

“I’m pretty impressed,” she said. “I was curious what depth of information I might learn from some university professors. I don’t agree with everything they’ve said, but I’ve learned a lot from both of them.

“These are all issues which affect our lives ... anything we can know about other people and the other cultures of the world, I think will help us live better lives.”