Statistics and capitalist "progress"

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Tue May 1 12:53:04 MDT 2001

>From United Nations Development Programme Human Development Indicators
(HDI) Report, 2000

Country		1975 HDI		1998 HDI	Net gain
Romania	0.750			0.770		0.020


The Economist July 15, 2000 , U.S. Edition

Can Moldova get worse?

WHAT happens when the economy hits rock-bottom? Everyone starts digging. So
goes the Moldovan joke, and the Moldovans should know. The Russian
financial crisis of 1998 knocked Moldova's feeble agrarian economy flat on
its back. Things surely could not get much worse. They did. The IMF reckons
the economy has shrunk by 60% since ex-Soviet Moldova, wedged between
Romania and Ukraine, became independent in 1991. Under a corrupt and
incompetent political elite, it is now the poorest country in Europe.

Moldovan salaries, when paid at all, are tiny: officially, $30 a month on
average, and maybe $20 more in undeclared income. Most rural people are
destitute: farm labourers earn 80 cents for a day's back-breaking work.
Doctors in towns receive little more, and can provide drugs only to
patients with money. Many teachers have to close school early, so they can
work in the fields to feed their families.


Chronicles of Higher Education, May 4, 2001

Telling the Truth About Damned Lies and Statistics


Statistics, then, have a bad reputation. We suspect that statistics may be
wrong, that people who use statistics may be "lying" -- trying to
manipulate us by using numbers to somehow distort the truth. Yet, at the
same time, we need statistics; we depend upon them to summarize and clarify
the nature of our complex society. This is particularly true when we talk
about social problems. Debates about social problems routinely raise
questions that demand statistical answers: Is the problem widespread? How
many people -- and which people -- does it affect? Is it getting worse?
What does it cost society? What will it cost to deal with it? Convincing
answers to such questions demand evidence, and that usually means numbers,
measurements, statistics.

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Louis Proyect
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