Monday, July 28, 2008

Can we burn the fiddlers yet?

"Swedish unemployment suddenly jumped from 5.9 per cent to 8.1 per cent"

Seasonally adjusted?

Anatole Kaletsky sounds an optimistic note concerning the world economy. Personally I'm a pessimist, but mainly relating to the UK economy. Others around the world will continue to grow as the banks reign in UK spending and the housing market goes way way down.

Yet what is interesting to me about the Swedish statistics is that they are so dramatic. I suppose it could be a routine matter, relating to the end of university courses in June/July, but if so then why is it highlighted?

The more I see of statistics in governments, the more I question. Of course I know there are lies, damned lies, etc, but I think that that very truism has been exploited to the limit. After all, when statistics are massaged- and dahhling they obviously are- you're left to "trust" the masseurs. But the truth is that at the end all statistics mean something concrete to someone somewhere and are not just means of manipulating paltry currents of franchise- ie. voters.

An interesting thing that Kaletsky points to is the division between economists and financiers- the latter being the pessimists- " The consensus view among economists, as opposed to financiers, at present is that the United States is experiencing, at worst, a mild recession"... . It occurs to me that that's because financiers are the ones who are performing the sums and to whom these sums have real-life consequences. Declining fortunes are real-life enough. Future income opportunities are real-life enough.

It all brings me nicely to Richard North's post about data manipulation. It rather disappoints me (naive as I must be) that people resort to crude data manipulation. It's a brutal but effective way of coralling those you distrust and dislike, and it doesn't require a terrible deal of intellect. Most boring and most damaging- I think it will be seen as most criminal too, in the long run.

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