Sunday, March 12, 2006

Lies, damn lies and so on

There are some things that really get up my nose. Michael Portillo in todays Sunday Times casually remarking that "Roe v Wade legalised abortion in America," when, in the same paper, Andrew Sullivan accurately states that what it did was designate "abortion as a constitutional right." Mary Riddell saying that someone believes the BNP are a bit too socialist for their liking as if that must make him a raving fascist, when the BNP stands for protectionism and re-distribution as acentral part of their philosophy.

But what really gets to me is the casual abuse of statistics. The first one that's been in the news recently is the 'fight against child poverty.' Labour have missed a target to reduce this by the proverbial country mile. That looks awful - a million children raised in poverty - until you look at what it means - an income of less than 60% of the average. By any historical measurement there is no poverty in Britain. The benefit system alone has raised income levels to a point unrecognisable a hundred, or even fifty years ago. Looking at poverty as a proportion of average income just guarantees its continued survival. This is, of course, the entire point. What is the Labour Party for if not to fight the iniquities of poverty? If you get rid of poverty what else is there to do? But the inherently ridiculous nature of the argument is obvious - if Bill Gates, the Aga Khan and Richard Branson live on an island together, is Branson really living in poverty because his wealth is proportionally less than the others?

The other one that has really irritated me - perhaps more so because it is still trotted out as clear proof of the iniquity of white Zimbabwean farmers - was that the whites owned 70% of the best farmland. The way this one was worked out was beautiful in its simplicity. How do you calculate the 'best' land? By looking at agricultural yields of course! Therefore, since white-owned commercial farms had higher yields, they must be on more fertile land. Obvious really. So when the farms were re-possessed what happened? Well, yields went down as investment decreased and the land gradually became less good. So, the removal of a farm from a white farmer actually increased the proportion of the best land in the hands of the remaining farmers. If I hear this argument once more, I really might blow a gasket.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really gets up my nose is people who can't use the apostrophe. For example, a common phrase "Michael Portillo in todays..." when it should be "Michael Portillo in today's...". Almost as bad as people who can't spell pedant...

Tawny Port. Very drinkable.

8:11 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really gets up my nose is people who use 'can't' when they actually mean 'cannot' when engaging in formal speech. A pedant is a thorough animal.

9:12 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What really gets me is people who get bogged down in criticising other people's typing mistakes and fail to address the basic points raised by the post. Grow up.

1:24 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My dear Anonymous, I was implicitly in the business of doing that by subjecting the first Anon to a taste of his own medicine. Maybe too grown up an approach, will try to dumb it down in the future. I have no issues to address with the post.

7:48 pm  
Blogger Tim J said...

You're all right. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa, miserere homine. I'll put it down to the glass of champagne I managed to pour into my keyboard. It's beginning to resemble a Molesworthian piano

9:23 pm  

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