Steve Bennett has published an academic enquiry into the fiddling of police statistics (http://thinbluelineuk.blogspot.co.uk/) using the Freedom of Information Act. In my own work I’ve become sick to death of statistics, mainly because the figures are rarely published in any usable form. One has to spend endless hours working out how the figures have been gamed, and the usual conclusion is that the real s story is not told and you need to go and do the research again. Try and find out, for instance, the extent of debt in the UK and what this means. One might go to this article by Stephanie Flanders (of the Bimbo Broadcasting Corporation) – http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-17398014 – which is called ‘The Truth About UK Debt – and sadly isn’t. One can find it debunked here – http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/03/philip-pilkington-scattergun-economics-%E2%80%93-the-bbcs-stephanie-flanders-muddies-an-already-impenetrable-argumen.html – but the obvious question is why we should believe either account. Flanders works on a figure of UK private debt at 210% of GDP, but you can quickly find Sreve Keen arguing a 450% figure and a Morgan Stanley estimate at 950%. The British Crime Survey always lists crime at about twice that of police recorded measures. The same story emerges more or less anywhere outside of science – there are no figures you can use in safe knowledge they are true. What’s particularly piss poor is this doesn’t stop Bimbo Media Inc. using an ‘objective voice’ in its reporting.
Debt, of course, is largely defined in our minds as borrowing money and having to pay it back – and this just won’t do in considering what it is in economics. The arguments being used a no better than those of the Sophists or lawyers and have no scientific currency. In our courts, the reliability of forensic evidence is much less than supposed, and we know forensic experts are very biased when we test them in general, as well as prone to ludicrous fantasy as in the case of Nico Bento, and yet convince judge and jury (and presumably police and prosecutors).
We use very complicated statistics in areas like manufacturing and the kind of translation you can now get through Google. Scientific work also relies heavily on the techniques and the thinking involved. I find none of this in most of the reported numbers used in economics and government. In scientific thinking I get a kind of ‘fuck me that’s how it works’ feeling. In the general run of social numbers I just get ‘fuck me exasperation’.
It must be obvious to us all that if one borrows money and invests it in a factory or land to grow stuff, that the debt involved is different from that borrowed and pissed up the wall. And it should also be obvious that ‘detections’ detected by hard working cops actually doing investigation are different in some way from those obtained through nodding, stitching, cuffing and skewing. This latter indirect detection is often the product of good work by a uniform lad or lass noticing some struggs acting suspiciously, rather than actual enquiry into reported crime.
The vast majority of statistical work outside science, in our public records and most social science is junk – merely bullshit or the waving of Sooty’s Magic Wand whilst a liturgy of frequency distribution jargon is sung. In economics, the underlying story is really one of crime and we need a police-like enquiry. How is it, at every turn, that the rich get richer on the backs of others doing the work? They even have us thinking this is fair and that without the opportunity to make these riches, the rest of us would be fucked. Science proceeds through demonstration, but economics proceeds through obfuscation – you can’t buy a banana without paying fees through offshore tax evasion and transfer pricing techniques. These techniques feed back into the statistical model, but what’s clearly needed is to put a stop to them.
The story of police crime detection from actual enquiry rather than the admissions in TIC and the rest of the gaming is probably that most crime goes undetected, and that recorded crime is a tip of the iceberg. A similar story is told on economics and big business in the book ‘Treasure Islands’. In science we can sweep away bullshit and address material directly or through honest counting techniques (stats). I have no sense of science as ‘value-free’ and every sense that our public dialogue has none of the values science is replete with. This doesn’t mean you can trust your daughter with a scientist, or a scientist reporting for big pharma or industrial interests. We lie too.
The issue for public reporting is there is no genuine public scrutiny or genuine scientific review. I can work out yields from complex reactions in a few minutes. This may involve maths you can’t really imagine. All I can work out in economics is that I wouldn’t even start to do any work on its sums because there are no figures to trust. Any fool can see recorded crime is down across the developed world, but is this anything at all to do with anything beyond gaming? Has anyone ever proved that giving money to the rich and letting them keep it really makes for a better society? One can hire plenty of Sophists to make the argument – but even the Greeks knew the big problem with argument is one can produce dozens of competing ones of the same strength.
Science is beyond most people. So is basic book-keeping – do you know what a balance sheet is, a profit and loss account, cashflow or unit cost or cost-benefit analysis? I can’t see any hope in technical analysis in the world’s affairs. We need a new collective will – but Gramsci died long ago and no end of writing about this has produced anything. Clever piss with figures ain’t it. I suspect it’s all much more simple.