Willaim Thurber - PhD Student
thurber at FMGMT.MGMT.UTORONTO.CA
Tue Sep 19 10:05:38 MDT 1995
Phil, Darin et al--
Let me start this by declaring that while the 2nd amendment is not my
personal favourite I am not planning to start any repeal campaign. I am
curious what y'all think "well regulated" means?
As to Phil's forward from Buckley quoting Sowell...
Sowell is mostly right, however in the social sciences it is impossible
to observe all the behaviors of all the people so we must use stats as
evidence in support of our arguments. What Sowell attacks is that which
we very generally call validity, ie is what we measure a reliable indicator
of the concept that interests us. For example, crime stats as an
indicator of the in/effectiveness of gun control. He seems to
think that these links are not ever possible to establish, I would disagree.
But I will admit the process depends upon common sense.
The problem with the FBI stats in the NRA release is that they are
incomplete, we do not know what the numbers refer to, nor do we know how
large the sample is, heck we do not even know what constitutes a
"favourable" state or "fair" state.
Maybe I am biased, but academic articles are rigorously reviewed by
other academics before publication for any sign of this sort of "bias"
before publication. It is not a perfect process but the best journals
usually refuse articles that contain these errors. They might be the best
source of unbiased interpretation of crime stats, any poly sci profs out
On Mon, 18 Sep 1995, Phil Buckley wrote:
> As for stats that are reliable, see the post below...
> The Conservative Edge (TM) - Thursday, September 14, 1995 - Vol.I No. 62
> Some of my relatives were more excited than I was over the fact
> that my recently published book, "The Vision of the Anointed," was on the
> Wall Street Journal's best-seller list. Partly that is because I have my
> doubts about the reliability of any of the various best-seller lists -- and
> doubts about statstics in general.
> Some books on the best seller list don't sell as many copies as
> other books that are not on the best-seller list. That is because all these
> lists leave out many of the places that sell books. The New York Times, for
> example, leaves out book clubs and specialty book shops.
> The Book-of-the-Month Club may be selling your book like hot cakes
> but, somehow, that doesn't count. Books sold by religious book stores also
> don't count, even though some of these books sell big.
> This is not a problem peculiar to books. All sorts of statistics
> that we accept uncritically are based on very shaky methods. The annual
> college rankings in "U.S. News and World Report" magazine would be very
> questionable, even if the statistics on which these rankings are based were
> reliable. But now it has come out that colleges lie to the magazine about
> such things as what percentage of their students graduate.
> In any field and in any country, the more some statistic is used as
> an indicator, the less it will indicate.
> One of the fatal flaws of government-run economies is that the
> people who control things have to rely on statistics, since they cannot be
> everywhere to observe with their own eyes. Even when the statistics are
> accurate, they are seldom up to date.
> Back in 1992, when the Clinton campaign was giving President Bush a
> hard time over the state of the economy, the economy was in fact doing very
> well. But neither Clinton nor Bush knew that and neither did the voters,
> because the statistics showing what was happening at that moment did not
> appear until long after the election.
> One of the problems that was never solved during the entire history
> of the Soviet Union was how to measure the success or failure of a given
> factory. When factories making nails were rated according to how many nails
> they made in a given time, they began making lots of tiny nails, in order
> to look successful.
> When the authorities realized what was happening and changed to
> measuring the weight of the nails produced, the factories then started
> making huge, heavy nails, even though the consumers might need smaller
> nails and thumbtacks.
> It was the same story with chandeliers. At first, factories were
> judged by how many chandeliers they turned out. Of course, they began
> turning out lots of midget chandeliers. When the criterion was changed to
> the weight of chandeliers, then huge, heavy chandeliers began to appear. By
> the 1950s, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev was complaining that chandeliers
> were so heavy that they were pulling down the ceilings.
> If there is anything worse than shaky statistics, it is shaky
> statistics mixed with politics.
> Ever since it became a big thing politically to "solve" the
> "dropout problem," all sorts of efforts have been made to have a high rate
> of high school graduation. The most effective way, of course, is to reduce
> the educational standards and make high school more of a fun place. As a
> result, we have more and more people receiving diplomas that mean less and
> The underlying problem in all these situations is that, when some
> number is used as an indicator of success, everyone will try to make that
> number as big as possible, whether or not that accomplishes the fundamental
> purpose it is supposed to accomplish. Whether it is Soviet factory
> managers, school principals, or people who try to manipulate best-seller
> lists, they are likely to do whatever will produce the right numbers,
> whether or not that produces the right result.
> If we all grew our own food, built our own houses, and made our own
> clothes, none of this would matter. We would produce what we wanted and
> that would be the end of it. But we live in a world where the vast majority
> of the things we use are made by other people. The questions is: How do we
> get those other people to do what we want, rather than maximize some
> statistical indicator?
> That problem is solved very simply in a market economy, because
> people buy what they want and leave what they don't want. Nails or
> chandeliers that are too big or too small just don't sell. People who make
> things that don't sell have to either change what they are doing or go out
> of business.
> Those who flatter themselves that they are some kind of special
> anointed who ought to be making other people's decisions for them fail to
> understand how nearly impossible it is for them to have accurate
> information by which to measure success or failure second hand.
> One of the scariest stories about President Clinton is that he
> stays up nights poring over statistics, in order to determine what policies
> to follow. It would be much more encouraging if he were spending that time
> studying the definitions behind those statistics and realizing how
> unreliable such numbers can be.
> Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover
> Institute and is a nationally syndicated columnist.
> COPYRIGHT 1995 CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.
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