Tim Worstall is, I think, 100% right here. The key difference is between "Smithian" commodities--where it is a safe rule of thumb that the consumer surplus generated is about equal to the producer cost, so that GDP accounts that value goods and services at real producer cost will capture a more-or-less stable fraction equal to half of true standards of living--and... I might as well call them "Andreesenian" commodities, where consumer surplus is a much larger proportion of monetized value because what is monetized is merely an ancillary good or service to what actually promotes societal welfare. What is the proportion? 5-1? 10-1? Somewhere in that range, I think--at least.
...and Marc Andreessen were disagreeing... over the effects of technology on the passing landscape.... Take, for example, Facebook. As far as the general economic statistics are concerned, GDP, labour productivity and all that, the output of Facebook is the advertising it sells.... Valuing Facebook’s contribution to living standards as being the advertising it sells is near insane... but that advertising is the only part of the value which we do ascribe to Facebook that is actually monetised. And given that GDP, labour productivity and all that are described only in monetised terms then we’re missing a very large part of what it’s all about.
People (for some unknown reason to me) like Facebook. Their lives are made richer by Facebook’s existence: they are in fact richer. We’re just not measuring that extra wealth that they derive from Facebook’s existence.... Brad Delong once pointed out (or perhaps pointed to someone who pointed out) that one way of looking at rising living standards in the 20th century was a factor of about 8. Rich world people in 2000 were 8 times better off than rich world people in 1900. Roughly true by those standard measures of GDP and so on. But if we than added what people could do, the improvements in quality, all something analagous to that consumer surplus. it might be more true to say that people were 100 times better off. That’s how I would explain (some of) that productivity puzzle....
Andreessen is... talking to that Facebook example above.... I do tend to think that the gap between “real living standards” and “recorded living standards” is growing simply because so much more of the value of the new technologies is not in fact monetised.