How to lie with statistics

4 04 2006

0393310728.01._AA_SCMZZZZZZZ_.jpgHow to Lie with Statistics is the title of a nice little book that was first published in the 50’s and that details all the tricks that politicians, economists, journalists, and others use to present statistics in a way that, while not technically false, aims to deceive the public.

COGLIOa.jpgHere in Italy, we’ve recently had a particularly blatant instance of the use of this technique by our “beloved” (and soon to be ex-, hopefully) government. 11 million Italian families are the recipients these days of a glossy, 160 page booklet published by Silvio Berlusconi’s party, titled La vera storia italiana (The Real Italian Story). The propaganda booklet, among lots of colorful photographs, provides some interesting “facts”, like the one on page 154, where it is stated that in 2001, when Berlusconi’s government was elected, Italy’s average per-capita income was $24,670, whereas it is $27,119 now. Nice, I am already starting to feel richer.

You might wonder why the amounts are expressed in USD, however. Isn’t the Euro the Italian currency? Well, let’s convert Dollars to Euros, using the conversion rates that were current in 2001 and 2006. For 2001, we use the value of the USD/EUR exchange rate . According to the UIC, on May 22, the day after the latest elections, an Euro was worth 0.8685 Dollars. Yesterday you had to spend 1.2063 Dollars to buy an Euro instead. Quite a difference! So, converting the Dollar amounts above we obtain:

Year USD Rate EUR
2001 24,670 0.8685 28,405
2006 27,119 1.2063 22,481

Hmmm… This doesn’t look so nice anymore. We use Euros to buy things, not Dollars, and in five years we lost almost 6,000 Euros. Per capita. And not even taking inflation into account!

Berlusconi is the real king of spin doctors. It’s not at all surprising, therefore, that today he said that leftist voters are “coglioni” (retards). He probably consider all Italians as morons, and they probably are if they believe his numbers.

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One response

5 04 2006
Yoav Shapira

I guess you won’t be voting for good old Silvio, eh? 😉

The Technorati search results for “coglioni” are… amusing 😉

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