Thursday, December 10, 2009

Beastly Numbers

"Lies, damned lies, and statistics" , often attributed to Disraeli was once a universally acknowledged declension . Why ,I wonder, has the fact that numbers can be made to show just about anything been forgotten ? There are currently three competing views of the National Debt . Those who know we are behaving like store card junky , those who do not understand , and those who work for New Labour. They have good stats though as did the Economists who so clearly were talking twaddle for the last ten years. Wither scepticism ?
It reminds me of ritual disparagement of the “Sawbones” in the pages of Fielding and his contemporaries .Nowadays the Delphic decrees of the “Medical Profession” are legislation quicker than you can say, “Hey I used to like that Pub…” .So as the alternative comedian would say ..“Huh , wasssat all about then ?
Can we believe now that we once survived without the ONS , formed (appropriately) on the 1st of April 1996 . Oh no we didn’t ! Oh yes we did , and easily . I suggest that Numbers are not the tablets of Moses so much as the false idol ,even if we would all like that much gold around right now. ( Its value is predictably rocketing ).

Marriage is set to be a key battle ( cooked that cliché earlier in the show folks ..) .Both sides spit stats like vipers at each other.. The Centre for social studies did research on 50,000 sample finding that children growing up outside a two parent family were 75% more like to fail educationally and 70% more likely to become addicted to drugs. Hurrah for marriage then .
Not so says New Labour’s anti marriage Pit Bull Maria ( skin-heed) Miller, and New Labour camp follower Richard Reeves of Demos . They say … once you take class income and sorting out of the equation the remaining effect of marriage is small. As they will also say if asked, “People that are more committed tend to get married so you are not measuring the effect of marriage at all”
Well yes and no ..People who choose to get married may well be more committed. Part of the reason for this is that they come from a culture that values commitment and part of the language by which that is expressed is marriage . I therefore put it to you that the argument from circularity is itself circular . Marriage scores a late winner then ? I neither know nor care .

By entering the top trumps stat game we have already half lost the battle .One of the insights of Conservatism is that “ We do not and cannot know everything “. That’s why we value things that have actually worked and get nervous when a clever dick claims to be able to prove his revolutionary new way will be an improvement .Diffuse knowledge encoded in tradition is valuable , whether or not anyone knows why. The worship of stats implies that a man in Whitehall can and does know best .It is , my friends no less than a state colonisation of the human spirit , and should be resisted . Here is an example of how to.
The next time someone says stats prove that the death penalty is not a deterrent because countries with it have lots of murder ,instead of dismantling the cause and effect just say ..” It would deter me, you ? “ Of course it is , which is not to say I necessarily want it back.


Bill Quango MP said...

Top Trumps stat game?
You must play our Friday fun game tomorrow!

Newmania said...

Will do

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