Statistics, Index, and the Power of Information

CONVERSION FROM INDEX TO REALITY

Obama’s call for “TRUTH” is a simplified statement that calls into question the manner in which information is collected, the way it is presented and the manner in which it is disseminated to the public. 

Underlying this simple call for integrity is his assessment that information flow is fundamentally flawed and that a much needed correction will result in smarter policies that people will give credence to and lend their active support; and that the self-fulfilling negative prophecy we are all living can be turned into a positive climb in quality of life. If you already believe this and understand it, there is no need for you to read this article. If you think his statement is mere lofty rhetoric, you might want to consider my presentation here. For those who want further information, look for books by Von MIses and Rothbard.

The tools of power are all based in information. If the information seems reliable, then the policies foisted on us seem reasonable and even “right.” The basic tool in use today is the statistical index. There is something about an index that when published gains the credulity of the public and even those who know better. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

American political and economic history can be viewed from many perspectives and themes. One of them is the ebb and flow of our collective perception of people, regarded sometimes as labor, sometimes as capital and sometimes not at all. 

The current business, economic and political environment has failed to advance or evolve very much for most of the people of the United States, even though women received the right to vote some 80 years ago, and blacks received the right to vote some 40 years ago. 

The tendency of certain people to accumulate great wealth and power in any society of any nature inevitably produces an inequality not only of results, but of opportunity. American voters, deprived of the education and information they need to know to make informed decisions, are easily manipulated into voting against their own interests.  An educated voter is a nightmare to any power broker, economic cartel, or political cartel.

When adults cannot find states, cities or even continents on a map displaying all the information with proper labeling, it is not hard to see how such people can be easily deceived. And those with power and wealth are eager to deceive them, gaming the electoral process into a utility to maintain and expand their wealth and their power.

The tools of power are all based in information. If the information seems reliable, then the policies foisted on us seem reasonable and even “right.” The basic tool in use today is the statistical index. There is something about an index that when published gains the credulity of the public and even those who know better. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

Whether it is Libor, the inter-bank lending rate index, the CPI, which supposedly measures inflation for consumers, or the indexes used to measure market dominance, we have drawn artificial lines in the sand which allow those in power to continue on their merry way while the rest of us wonder what hit us. 

 

  • The reality is that Libor, bond ratings, measurements of consumer prices, measurements of those employed, measurements of those unemployed, measurements of those underemployed, productivity, and unfair trade practices are all at substantial variance with reality. Thus the mortgage meltdown, the recession, and another opening of Walmart that kills thousands of jobs, hundreds of companies, thousands of opportunities for innovation, and diminishes our choices to dangerous or inferior products with virtually no service inside the store and no assurances of fair treatment once a sale has been completed. 
  • Walmart is able to achieve this feat and become one of the largest companies in the world by converting labor back into capital despite the 13th Amendment. As with all companies of great wealth they were able to purchase the rights to make their activities legal. In reality, those of us who live in the world created by this cash carry government policy making, we see that there is complete 100% market dominance by Walmart in each town it hits. 
  • But statisticians for Walmart just like the statisticians for the drug companies, look for a sampling that gives them the arguable position that what we see right in front of us, just isn’t there. We are deceived, or so they say. We are not looking at the “big picture.” True, nor should we look at THEIR big picture if we want OUR lives improved. There should be a healthy competition between accumulation of wealth and quality of life. In truth, we are at the bottom of the barrel on the level of that all-important competitive “index.”
  • By expanding and contracting the area “affected” by a Walmart store one can present a plausible argument that there is no significant effect on competition. We know different but there it is right there in black and white, by the numbers. 
  • By contracting the sampling on a drug study to a specific period of time where nothing adverse happened to patients taking the experimental drug, the drug is pronounced safe and then tens of thousands of people die because it wasn’t safe, as the REST of the data clearly showed. Management of disinformation is the way we are manipulated into voting against ourselves. Political slogans emanate from false statements from apparently reliable sources. And we are all deceived.

 

  • By hiring all graduates of regulatory agencies when they retire, a retailer or drug or oil company guarantees that the regulators will not look too deeply into the manner in which such an index is presented. Plausible deniability is the name of the game. The result is you and I get screwed. That is the story of antitrust, the FDA, and dozens of other agencies serving the business sector  to the nearly complete exclusion of the safety and welfare of the taxpayers in whose name they operate. It is the equivalent of a hostile takeover of government where the cash and carry system of legislation perpetuates not merely inequality but threats to the safety and welfare of our citizens.

“Inequality” (regardless of how you define the word “equal”) does and will exist in the most despotic regimes following ideology from Marx to Plato’s progeny producing the likes of John Locke and the scholars of the American Revolution. No regime can provide or assure a specific outcome for the life of one or any of its citizens. This article takes no issue with the inevitability of inequality.

Yet we have an innate sense of right and wrong even when we do wrong. We know that “all men are created equal” has a meaning even if we can’t all agree precisely what that means. We know that the U.S. Constitution was written to provide a framework for liberty and freedom but not for women, native Americans and slaves. Women and native Americans counted as zero and black slaves pulled slightly ahead of women at 3/5 of a person, as stated in our constitution. 

When the American Slaves were freed about 160 years ago it was, in an economic sense, a conversion of capital into labor. 

Slaves had been purchased and traded like bales of cotton or rice or tobacco; they were property, they were allowed no education, no free will, and of course no bargaining power. How would anyone go about “educating” a bale of cotton? It makes no sense. While mystics ascribe a soul to everything, whether we think it is alive or not not, most of us are quite tolerant at denying rights to a bale of cotton, even if it is burned, torn apart are thrown under a bus. In a word, if the cotton “feels” anything, we don’t care and it isn’t likely that we will care anytime soon or that we should. Something in most of us “knows” that the cotton is not worthy of our sympathy, nor do we sense any obligation to it.

The system made perfect economic sense: the cost of production was reduced to the absolute minimum, repairs of equipment and “other capital” (like slaves) were repaired until they were of no further use at which point they were discarded. And unlike other forms of capital, slaves reproduced, thus continually expanding the potential for production without further capital expenditures. 

Society organized around this system in such a way that no actual person worked, without being regarded as disgraced. Plantations were worked by slaves, managed by slaves and the wealth generated went exclusively to the Plantation owner. The threat of removing this system, depriving the owners of their possession of slave capital was a threat to the entire way of life that had evolved over 200 years. 

It makes sense only if you look at some data and not look at other information. The slave capital system was missing a key ingredient — a prospering rising middle class. The non-slave states had it and they did far better in the long run than any of the slave states many of which are still, 160 years alter, at the bottom of the barrel economically and in quality of life. Their resistance to allowing education to a significant population of former slaves was the equivalent of shooting themselves in the head.  It was an all or nothing mentality. Either the slaves would provide free production or we won’t help them do anything. 

The “information” Southerners were working with was that blacks were less than human. They thus deprived themselves of the single greatest resource they had to compete in a national economy and eventually internationally. Politicians looking for power found it easy pickings to tease voters into anger and resentment about the Civil War, about slavery, and about Jim Crow segregation. The politicians objectives were simple: maintain power. The rest of the people be damned. (which at the risk of political incorrectness, makes the Reverend Wright’s comment plausible, even if ill-constructed. He wasn’t wrong in what he said. Yet he missed an important point: 40-160 years ago he would have been tortured and hung for making a statement that passed only as a news story now).

The importing of tens of millions of Mexican laborers who had “illegal” status is an inevitable result of big business’ realization that the lock on the poor white and poor black populations was loosening. The grip of fear of discovery gave the leverage needed to convert these workers from labor to something as close to slave capital as would be tolerated in our society.

The mortgaging of America’s future, with all the inevitable taxes that implies, the culture of debt rather than savings, and the withholding and diminishment of education through all walks of life in America is the policy behind the tools of our re-enslavement. The risk now is higher and more widespread than in the 1790’s when women, slaves and native Americans were already discounted capital. Now the government and the business sector have us all targeted as potential “capital” instead of unhappy black men caught like animals and transported like capital with acceptable losses at 1/3 of the cargo. 

And the only thing that can stop them is a reversal of the institutionalization of ignorance. We have accepted too long the notion that we don’t know anything but that’s OK nobody else does either. We should all know more than we do, We should all treat life as an opportunity to educate, train and better ourselves. If we do, then everyone wins, including the business sector which needs the rising prosperous middle class to do business, whether it is here or abroad. Why don’t they know that? Because like you, they are just people trying to get the most they can right now. That’s human nature. That is the American way.

Treat every index with suspicion. Test all information against your own anecdotal experience. And don’t let anyone tell you they know more about your life than you do.

3 Responses

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  3. […] Walk In Brain wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerpt CONVERSION FROM INDEX TO REALITY Obama’s call for “TRUTH” is a simplified statement that calls into question the manner in which information is collected, the way it is presented and the manner in which it is disseminated to the public.  Underlying this simple call for integrity is his assessment that information flow is fundamentally flawed and that a much needed correction will result in smarter policies that people will give credence to and lend their active support; and that the self-ful […]

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