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  • Archive for the 'Statistics' Category

    The Public-Health Fallacy

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd November 2009 (All posts by )

    The discussion at this otherwise-good Instapundit post is typical.

    The discussion is misframed. The question isn’t whether a specific medical procedure is a good idea. The question is who gets to make the decisions.

    This is a comment that I left on a recent Neo-Neocon post:

    It’s the public-health fallacy, the confusion (perhaps willful, on the part of socialized-medicine proponents) between population outcomes and individual outcomes. Do you know how expensive that mammogram would be if every woman had one? The implication is that individuals should make decisions based on averages, the greatest good for the greatest number.
     
    The better question is, who gets to decide. The more free the system, the more that individuals can weigh their own costs and benefits and make their own decisions. The more centralized the system, the more that one size must fit all — someone else makes your decisions for you according to his criteria rather than yours.
     
    In a free system you can have fewer mammograms and save money or you can have more mammograms and reduce your risk. Choice. In a government system, someone like Kathleen Sebelius will make your decision for you, and probably not with your individual welfare as her main consideration.

    Even in utilitarian terms — the greatest good for the greatest number — governmental monopolies only maximize economic welfare if the alternative system is unavoidably burdened with free-rider issues. This is why national defense is probably best handled as a governmental monopoly: on an individual basis people benefit as much if they don’t pay their share for the system as if they do. But medicine is not so burdened, because despite economic externalities under the current system (if I don’t pay for my treatment its cost will be shifted to paying customers) there is no reason why the market for insurance and medical services can’t work like any other market, since medical customers have strong individual incentive to get the best treatment and (in a well-designed pricing system) value for their money. The problems of the current medical system are mostly artifacts of third-party payment and over-regulation, and would diminish if we changed the system to put control over spending decisions back into the hands of patients. The current Democratic proposal is a move in the opposite direction.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, Medicine, Rhetoric, Science, Statistics | 7 Comments »

    Anniversary Comparison

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 9th November 2009 (All posts by )

    Amazon search on “revolution 1848“: 17,292 results

    Amazon search on “revolution 1989“: 7,972 results

    Posted in Academia, Anti-Americanism, Europe, History, Leftism, Political Philosophy, Statistics | 2 Comments »

    Compare and Contrast

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 2nd September 2009 (All posts by )

    Murdoc very kindly gave us a heads up to this fascinating photo blog. Pictures taken in Normandy during the 1944 invasion are compared side-by-side with images taken from the very same spot today. Looks like they cleaned up the place a bit since then.

    Uncle points us to this photo array. The weekly food intake of families from various parts of the world are shown in graphic fashion, and the money spent is tabulated. Makes me proud to be an American.

    Well worth your time.

    Posted in Economics & Finance, History, Photos, Society, Statistics, War and Peace | 4 Comments »

    WHO’s Shotgun Statistics

    Posted by Shannon Love on 13th May 2009 (All posts by )

    Instapundit links to a story on a WHO report on Swine-Flu. This bit caught my eye:

    Ferguson and his collaborators, part of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Rapid Pandemic Potential Assessment Collaboration, determined that 6,000–32,000 individuals had been infected in Mexico by late April. 

    Translating from media speak, 6,000-32,000 actually means a 95% confidence level of 19,000 plus/minus 13,000! That’s not a statistic, it’s a shotgun blast of mathematical pellets. At long range.

    All the rest of the calculations seem to descend from this dubious guess. Why do they even bother? As I’ve written before, bad data are worse than no data at all. 

    [Note to grammar nazis: Technically, data is a plural. Datum is the singular.]

    Posted in Science, Statistics | 3 Comments »

    Observational Bias in Mass-Shooting Stories

    Posted by Shannon Love on 6th May 2009 (All posts by )

    Why do we spend so much money on fire proofing buildings when we seem to have so few major fires? 

    Via Instapundit comes this news story of an armed college student preventing a mass killing. I think the most interesting facet of the story is where it was reported. This story of a lawful citizen killing a home invader and preventing a mass killing didn’t appear in the New York Times, just the website of a local TV station. 

    On the other hand, had the criminals carried out their apparent plan to murder the 10 victims in the apartment, does anyone doubt that such a horrible crime would have made nationwide news in every form of media? Does anyone doubt that a blizzard of opinion pieces would claim the murders as evidence of the need to disarm the citizenry?  

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Media, RKBA, Statistics | 3 Comments »

    Flu and Mortality

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 1st May 2009 (All posts by )

    I am far from an expert on medicine but was interested in the difference in mortality in Mexico and the United States on this latest outbreak of swine flu. After reading many of the accounts I noted that many of the individuals in Mexico did not have access to health care and / or delayed going to the doctor and used home remedies or self-medicated until their situation was very bad.

    The victims seem to be dying of what is basically pneumonia. Pneumonia is a serious condition, and if left untreated (or not treated until far into its course) it can be deadly, even here in the US. I know several individuals who have gotten some form of pneumonia (or their children) in recent months here in Chicago – and while they missed work and obviously had high concern for any youngsters with the symptoms, they all were treated and came back fine after being ill or out of work for a while.

    What you likely are seeing in the difference in mortality is the difference between a broadly based, functioning health care system from a rich society and one for a semi-functioning health care system for a poorer society. Mexico is a pretty developed country – if this sort of flu broke out in Africa it probably wouldn’t even be noticed among the endemic diseases and preventable fatalities that happen every day, sadly enough. As I note in a recent post about Angola, one of the richer African countries (they have oil revenues), a significant portion of their total health care budget goes to sending the richest friends and family of their leader off for foreign doctors overseas, to show where their priorities lie.

    The media won’t come out and say it directly because it may be perceived as offensive to Mexican sensibilities but the mortality rate seems to be almost solely due to the differences in the effectiveness of our overall health care systems.

    Posted in Americas, Statistics | 12 Comments »

    Delayed Vindication

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 1st May 2009 (All posts by )

    Shannon Love was taken to task by the anti-war left way back in 2004. The reason why he drew their ire was because he dared to question the wisdom of a suspicious study that appeared in the Lancet. The study claimed that about 100,000 civilians died in Iraq during the first year after US forces invaded.

    Why was this suspicious? Mainly because the authors of the study laid the blame for the deaths at the feet of the Coalition, the number of deaths were ten times higher than any other credible estimate, and because it was released just in time to effect the 2004 US elections.

    (If you are interested in the back and forth, this post is a roundup of all essays discussing the study.)

    Strategypage reports that the Iraq government has just released the findings of a study of their own.

    “The government has released data showing that 110,000 Iraqis have died, mostly from sectarian and terrorist violence, since 2003.”

    So the 100K figure is finally correct, only five years after it was first reported. And the Coalition forces didn’t cause the majority of the deaths but terrorists, criminals, and blood feuds are to blame.

    Does this matter now, five years after the fact?

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Iraq, Leftism, Statistics, War and Peace | 7 Comments »

    This Debate Would Be Over If the Other Side was Rational

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 12th April 2009 (All posts by )

    One of the tactics used by those who advocate banning privately owned firearms is that Great Britain enjoys a lower level of homicide than that found in the United States. The idea is that we could have lower murder rates, if only guns were banned.

    Part of their argument is true. The US has a homicide rate about 2.5 times that of the UK.

    Kevin of The Smallest Minority discusses out some painful truths about this assertion. He points out that the US homicide rate used to be much greater, but has fallen even though more states have passed laws allowing private citizens to carry concealed firearms. At the same time, the rates of all violent crimes, and all crimes in general, have been climbing in the UK even though they have been passing ever more laws restricting legal self defense.

    Seems simple enough. They restrict weapons in the UK, and crime goes up. We allow more people to carry firearms here in the US, and crime goes down. Even if there are other reasons which affected this outcome (and there are), the very idea that banning guns will lead to less crime has been completely discredited. Right?

    I wish!

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Law, RKBA, Statistics | 12 Comments »

    Money (Basket) Ball

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th March 2009 (All posts by )

    Michael Lewis is a great journalist and author of several books that are highly recommended by Dan and I. “Moneyball” tells the story of the Oakland A’s, and how they used statistics and a novel view of baseball to win a lot of games on a small budget, as well as the story of Billy Beane, who went from a can’t miss, 4 tool prospect to an MLB bust, and then on to revolutionize baseball as manager of the A’s. “The Blind Side” explained the evolution of the left tackle in the NFL from an also-ran to one of the most important positions on the field, along with a lucid an excellent description of the evolution of passing offense, which sadly enough has apparently never been read by our beloved Chicago Bears. The book also featured Michael Oher, who was plucked from total obscurity to starting on Ole Miss, the only team that knocked off eventual NCAA champion Florida last season. For non-sports related items, Michael Lewis also wrote the famous book “Liars Poker” which explained the rise of bond trading at Salomon Brothers and is a Wall Street classic.

    Recently Michael Lewis wrote an article on basketball that appeared in the NY Times magazine – to find the article go to the NY Times site and type in the title of the article in the search engine – “The No-Stats All-Star”.

    In this article, Michael Lewis takes on basketball the same way he took on baseball and football, above. He is attempting to do what the best journalists do – tie in the “human element” with an original analysis of a complex topic. The key to Michael Lewis’ writing is that his human element actually matters and isn’t just fluff to glue the story together.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Sports, Statistics | 2 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 12th February 2009 (All posts by )

    Anyway, if we weren’t supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?

    From comment 2 at this post at the Freakonomics Blog.

    Posted in Statistics, Vitamins | 7 Comments »

    Why Most of Us No Longer Read The Economist

    Posted by Jonathan on 2nd October 2008 (All posts by )

    I just received a press release promoting The Economist‘s new survey of academic economists about McCain’s and Obama’s respective economic programs. Here are the results:

    What’s going on here?

    This is a junk survey. Look at the data. Now look at the article.

    Here’s The Economist‘s explanation of how they generated a survey sample:

    Our survey is not, by any means, a scientific poll of all economists. We e-mailed a questionnaire to 683 research associates, all we could track down, of the National Bureau of Economic Research, America’s premier association of applied academic economists, though the NBER itself played no role in the survey. A total of 142 responded, of whom 46% identified themselves as Democrats, 10% as Republicans and 44% as neither. This skewed party breakdown may reflect academia’s Democratic tilt, or possibly Democrats’ greater propensity to respond. Still, even if we exclude respondents with a party identification, Mr Obama retains a strong edge—though the McCain campaign should be buoyed by the fact that 530 economists have signed a statement endorsing his plans.

    The stuff about 683 research associates and the NBER is meaningless. What matters is that this was an Internet poll arbitrarily restricted to academic economists and with a self-selected sample. This is a problem because:

    -Academic economists are likely to be more leftist than economists as a whole.

    -Only 14 out of the 142 respondents identified themselves as Republicans.

    -There is no way to know why only 10% or respondents identified as Republicans, but several possibilities implying gross sampling error are obvious. In other words, either most academic economists lean as far to the Left as do other academics, which seems unlikely and would impeach the survey results, or the sample is unrepresentative and impeaches the survey results.

    -The labels “Democratic economist”, “Republican economist” and “unaffiliated economist” are self-selected and may be inaccurate. My guess is that most of the unaffiliateds usually vote for Democrats even if they are not registered Democrats. In this regard I am reminded of media people who claim to be independent even though everyone knows they vote overwhelmingly for Democrats.

    So this is a worthless survey for research purposes. It is not, however, worthless, for business purposes, as I am sure it will generate a lot of discussion and outraged debunking by bloggers, and therefore a lot of traffic for The Economist‘s Web site. It may also help to get Obama elected, and perhaps that is part of the plan.

    Where have we seen this kind of politically driven statistical analysis before?

    UPDATE: The vagueness of the self-reported categorizations, “Republican”, “Democrat” and “independent” is obvious. One wonders why the survey did not also, or as an alternative, ask respondents to report for whom they voted in recent elections.

    Posted in Anti-Americanism, Leftism, Media, Politics, Polls, Statistics, The Press, USA | 20 Comments »

    Nullification, Diffusion, and Probability

    Posted by Jay Manifold on 16th August 2008 (All posts by )

    Via the usual source, we are directed to a Randy Barnett post over on VC, which in turn discusses Juror Becomes Fly in the Ointment. The key passage, largely ignored in subsequent discussion, is (emphasis added):
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Crime and Punishment, Human Behavior, Law, Law Enforcement, Political Philosophy, Society, Statistics | 12 Comments »

    Number Gut Part II

    Posted by Shannon Love on 6th May 2008 (All posts by )

    Way back in 2004 I wrote about how the lack of an intuitive sense of scale prevented many people from viewing the Lancet Iraqi Mortality survey with skepticism. The same lack of sense of scale shows up in other areas such as in this article (via Megan McArdle) about ending subsidies to the oil industry instead of levying a windfall-profits tax.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Economics & Finance, Energy & Power Generation, Media, Politics, Statistics, The Press | 13 Comments »

    Problems With Self-Selected Survey Data

    Posted by Jonathan on 7th December 2007 (All posts by )

    Jim Miller, discussing customer-satisfaction surveys, highlights a common error of inference:

    Consumer Reports does not seem to understand that all its surveys, not just those on cars, have a systematic problem; the respondents are self selected, which often biases the results, as any good survey researcher can tell you.

    So (following Jim’s example) if the Consumer Reports survey shows the Camry as more reliable than the Corvette, is this because the Camry is really more reliable or is it because people who buy Corvettes tend to drive them hard? The reliability data provided by Consumer Reports do not provide enough information to answer this question.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Business, Management, Science, Society, Statistics | 10 Comments »