Leave statistics to the policy makers

Statistics are bandied about daily in the media, and making sense of what they mean is certainly beyond me.

A story about job numbers will appear, claiming a certain number of new jobs have been created over a given time period. And it’s always compared with last year’s rate to put it into “context.”

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More jobs you think. That’s a good thing. The economy is humming along nicely. And that simplistic analysis is just what the number spinners, especially those churning out government press releases to chortle about the government’s great performance, are hoping for.

The next thing you know the big banks are raising prime interest rates and we’re hearing how this is going to impact the bottom line of almost everyone, so the economy is going to suffer.

Hey, what about all those new jobs? I thought everything was great.

Statistics should be left to the statisticians to do with whatever it is they do to apply them to policy and legislation. In my opinion using them to spin government agendas and other agendas just muddies the waters for those of us without even rudimentary skills to analyze them.

A classic case is Statistics Canada’s Crime Severity Index, which gets simplistically  translated into “danger” when actually figuring out what the number really means is impossibly complex.

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