Posted by: secretperson | April 12, 2010

Worstall on Dodgy Poverty Statistics

It is well worth reading this from Tim Worstall at the Adam Smith Institute*. A quick demonstration of how easy it is to twist statistics, and selectively use those that support your argument.

Essentially, comments about the relative wealth of those at the top and bottom of society discount the effects of government wealth redistribution, whether through direct welfare or provision of services. Those same stats are used to justify government redistribution, which by definition cannot improve the stats. Then they can be wheeled out again to ask for more money ad infinitum. Tim provides worked examples and much more detail.

This sort of thing is incredibly common, but it often takes time and effort to disprove something. And once repeated in a few columns in the ‘reliable’ national press, the idea is quickly spread, regardless of the true details. So be aware, and always doubt politicians.

If something sounds fishy to you, there’s probably a hard working blogger out there somewhere who’s checked it out. If something sounds true to you, it’s probably worth digging too, then you can really take the statistical moral high ground.

If only our media were so careful to check the politicians’ statements.


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