Radstats Issue 130 Editorial

Contents of this Issue

Following on from the discussions at the London Conference in February 2020, I asked contributors if they would agree to a student converting their power-point presentations into short texts. This has again been partly successful this year. We did manage to get two of the presentations at the 2021 Conference – those of Mike Sandys and Andrei Morgan – converted to text and these are the first two articles in this issue. The third article is an independent contribution by Bache and Burns on Student Loneliness. The final piece is a review by Simeon Scott of two statistical books. View issue 130.

Prospects for RSN 131

We have at least one article promised for RSN 131, but, clearly, we are going to need more and our administrator will put out a call for contributions to the List.

Another proposal for generating material was the relatively recent publication of the third RadStats compendium, Data in Society, which was presented by the books’ editors in 2020.  It is a landmark publication, bringing together many of the crucial issues around the production and use of quantitative information.

The contributors to Data in Society summarise many of the concerns around the accessibility and use of statistics in contemporary society. Examples include the lack of data from banking and financial organisations hides the extent of tax evasion of taxation. Government agencies are reducing the number of data series they make available for public scrutiny. The number of healthcare treatments in Britain provided by private groups is growing steadily.

The book is an eye-opener on the difficulties in holding governments and large organisations to account. Do you agree with the authors’ interpretations?

As the editors acknowledge there are data topics the volume does not cover in detail. These include the use of statistics by legal practitioners, housing and homelessness data and climate change data.

The editors of the RadStats journal have been planning to devote one journal issue to topics raised by Data in Society, and to topics not discussed in the book. Could you write an article for the journal on any of the topics above? Are there are areas of debate missing from Data in Society?

Administrative Issues

The 2022 Conference and AGM will take place on Saturday, 26 February. Radstats has a tentative booking for the day – and probably a bit extra – at the Newcastle Lit & Phil. The Conference will be either in-person OR virtual. If virtual, there would still be preparation and ongoing costs. We would ask for a donation; the suggested amount is £20, however all smaller donations will help cover the costs. Watch for more information soon! To get involved, please contact conf22@radstats.org.uk or the Troika, at troika@radstats.org.uk.

At the 2020 AGM a decision was approved to raise the subscription from £25 to £35 for those wishing to continue to receive print copies (whilst the membership subscription only – with online access – would remain at £25 and £10 for those on low incomes); otherwise they would be taken off the print distribution list.

Make sure you have updated your subscription, and please consider a one-off or regular donation.

See radstats.org.uk/membership where you can pay by cheque, standing order or PayPal.

Radstats Issue 129 Editorial

Contents of this Issue

Following on from the discussions at the London Conference in February
2020, I asked contributors if they would agree to a student
converting their power-point presentations into short texts. This was
partly successful that year and also this year, although they will both be in the next issue.

The first article is the paper presented by Sally Ruane at the Conference. The second article is by the author, making a few comparisons with previous pandemics and also demonstrating the difference in portrayal of the ‘League Table’ by Death Rates as distinct from Number of Cases. The third article is a tour de force by Sean Demack on pupil segregation in England; and the final short piece is by John Bibby on a variant of Stigler’s dilemma.

Prospects for RSN 130

We have two articles ready, which have been converted from presentations
into papers with the help of an ex-student but, clearly, we are
going to have to rely on further contributions from the 2021 Conference
and/or anonymous or encouraged contributions.

We are still waiting for follow-ups to the relatively recent publication
of the third RadStats compendium, Data in Society, which was presented
by the books’ editors on Saturday 28th 2020. It is a landmark
publication, bringing together many of the crucial issues around the
production and use of quantitative information.

The contributors to Data in Society summarise many of the concerns
around the accessibility and use of statistics in contemporary society.
Examples include the lack of data from banking and financial
organisations hides the extent of tax evasion of taxation. Government
agencies are reducing the number of data series they make available
for public scrutiny. The number of healthcare treatments in Britain
provided by private groups is growing steadily.

The book is an eye-opener on the difficulties in holding governments
and large organisations to account. Do you agree with the authors’
interpretations?

As the editors acknowledge there are data topics the volume does not
cover in detail. These include the use of statistics by legal practitioners,
housing and homelessness data and climate change data.
The editors of the RadStats journal have been planning to devote one
journal issue to topics raised by Data in Society, and to topics not
discussed in the book. Could you write an article for the journal on
any of the topics above? Are there are areas of debate missing from
Data in Society? For example, is anyone prepared to comment on
the statistical inequalities arising out of the impact of the COVID-19
pandemic?

Administrative Issues

As the Administrator informed those receiving printed copies of the
issue that, at the AGM held in London at the end of February 2020,
the decision was taken to raise the subscription from £25 to £35 for
those wishing to continue to receive printed copies (whilst the membership
subscription only – with online access – would remain at £25
for those £10 for those on low incomes), otherwise they would be
taken off the distribution list which originally includes all 300+ members.

Please make sure you have updated your subscription, or make a
donation! – by going to www.radstats.org.uk/membership/ where
you can pay by cheque, standing order, PayPal – or by filling in your
details on page 52.

2020 Conference and Events

2020, London: “Learning from the Past to Build a Better Future
Friday 28th & Saturday 29th February, 2020
Radical Statistics 46th annual conference will take place at
St Luke’s Community Centre, 90 Central St, London EC1V 8AJ.
Register on Eventbrite.
On Saturday, 29th at the same location Radical Statistics will hold its AGM, discussion about Data in Society, and an extended discussion on the future of Radstats, as we approach our 50th year. All welcome.

Editorial, Issue 121

This issue is now available online.

I/we had hoped – yet again – that this issue would include some of the conference papers but it was not to be.  However, my rather hopeless intervention at the beginning of the London Conference, which most –including myself – thought unlikely to be successful has, in fact generated several papers from new authors that not only filled the previous issue but provided a surplus for this issue (although none for the next!).

Contents of this Issue

The result of course is that the contents of this issue are again a mixed bag, so they have been put in the reverse order of author’s surnames (to distinguish from the previous issue).  Westart, with a critique of statistics as reification from Simeon Scott, including diatribes on Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics, Bolshevism and Statistics, IBM and the Nazis, Identity Politics, the Neutrality of Numbers, the Mean value as Reification, Big Data, the Data Scientist, Econometrics concluding with the Tyranny of Numbers. It is followed by anovel approach by Daniel and Burns to map real pedestrian catchment areas by factoring in elevation to the street networks to understand daily journey-to-work commuting behaviour, taking Milton in Galasgow as an example. As expected, the ‘real’ ‘ped-shed’ is smaller than the 2D ‘ped-shed’for both current and proposed networks. This research builds on existing established practice in walkability analysis, and prompts a discussion on other factors which may affect walkability and could be included in a more sophisticated walkability index.

After that there are two short articles.  Houghton contributes an expose of corruption and mismanagement in Irish Credit Unions, set up to be an ethically ‘cleaner’ than the disgraced banking sector, in their operation of prize draws (Misappropriation of funds; Mismanagement of prize draws funds; Poor systems and controls; Lack of independence where officers of the credit union have been prize-winners).  The last article is a final contribution by Roy Carr-Hill on meta analyses, examining the specifically statistical issues.  The issue is completed by a comprehensive report on the 2018 Conference in London.

Prospects for RSN 122
We now have no material for the next issue RSN 122, due late January. We would like it to be at least partly devoted to the 2018 conference
papers, and the Editor has written to each of the speakers
asking if they can produce a paper but we think it would also be very
useful if any of those who attended (or did not attend) have any ideas
or thoughts on the subjects raised could make a contribution, however
short. I/we have written to all of the authors individually and circulated
all members asking them to submit anything they want to write
on one or more of the themes addressed in the conference.

The themes addressed at the conference were the issue of inequality
as it relates to income, reproductive health and intimate partner violence,
while the fourth explored the feasibility of low-carbon towns.
The day included workshops specifically related to these themes, and
one on the role of the statistician in the age of alternative facts; and
reports of these workshops are included in the report at the end of this
issue..

Please send anything directly to Roy Carr-Hill roy.carr_hill@yahoo.com
with Subject Title: Contribution on 2018 London RadStats Conference:
theme Income Inequality OR Reproductive Inequalities OR Inequality
and Intimate Partner Violence OR Feasibility of Low-Carbon
towns OR Role of statistician in the age of alternative ‘facts’.
Roy Carr-Hill

Editorial – Radical Statistics Issue 117 (2017)

Issue 117 is now online, available as open access. Below is the editorial.

This is the first post-2017 Edinburgh Conference Issue. I/we have to
apologise for the tardiness in appearance; been more than a bit
submerged by other tasks. Anyway, I/we think that most of the 60+
participants enjoyed and profited from the Conference.

We have been waiting for the papers from that February Conference
for four months and have only received two; so we have decided to
publish an issue with our backlog of submitted papers, and make the
next issue the 2017 Conference papers.

These are a very mixed bag. The first is a paper, which will be seen as
controversial, by Ian Plewis on Glyphosate and Green Politics reviews
the evidence for and against ‘Round-up’ (and glyphosate more
generally) with a special focus on the confusion of hazard with risk
and the dodgy sampling and statistical methods employed. It is most
certainly worth reading carefully before jumping to any hasty
judgements; if nothing else he shows that (most of) the ‘Green’
evidence is hyped and suspect.

This is followed by a forensic examination of Welsh School Inspection
Reports by Robert Moore showing how ……

Then there is a fascinating two-pager by Larry Lesser – our first but I
hope not only statistical poet – on the ‘recent’ history of the portrayal
of the normal distribution, which is our new cover page.

On the other side of the normality sandwich, we have an article on the
appalling state of Irish breathalyser statistics by Frank Houghton
which ‘links’ – totally fortuitously – with the article by Roy Carr-Hill in
the previous issue.

The last article is by Dougal Hutchison analysing and reviewing the
success – or otherwise – of the Indian government in providing equal
educational opportunities to primary school children, focussing on the
bottom quintile and on Scheduled Tribes. He concludes that whilst
impressive gains have been made, there are still wide disparities
between these two disadvantaged groups and the rest.
Obviously a very eclectic collection and I am not going to make any
attempt to link them, other than that they are all very interesting
papers.

The issue is back to its usual length because there are two additional
pieces. One is a very critical review by Neil Wilson of a book on Basic
Income by Van Parijs and Vanderborght.

The other is the text – finally agreed on among ‘members; of the
Working Group set up at the 2016 RadStats meeting in York – of a
proposal for the issue raised by Palestinians to support Boycott,
Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) of Israeli University institutions
(not individuals). We’ll know whether they have responded positively
before you get this issue.

Roy Carr-Hill
Radical Statistics Editor

Free PDF of a New Book – “A Better Politics,” by Danny Dorling

“To make a real difference we need to shift common sense, change the terms of debate and shape a new political terrain.” – Doreen Massey (2015)

thewealthparade

When people look back on their lives, they often wish they had done things differently.

They wish they had not had to amass such debts, especially in paying for education. They wish one particular relationship had not ended, or that they had been with someone else.

They wish they had become a parent. They wish they had said goodbye to their loved ones properly before they died. And they wish that they had not had to worry so much through so much of their life about so many issues that they later realized were quite trivial.

This book is based on a few ideas that began with the findings of one academic paper published a decade ago, using data from a decade before that.

Those findings are being extrapolated forwards, and I have thrown in many ideas that are buzzing around academia, in books and articles, and reported in newspapers, magazines and elsewhere on the Internet. In all cases I try to give the most accessible source – one that is not hidden behind a paywall – in the endnotes to the book.

Most ideas in the book are not polished ideas and will need rethinking before coming to fruition. Inevitably, some will turn out to be stupid. What is certain is that there is no shortage of ideas and choices.

But before we adopt any ideas, we can all benefit from stepping back and asking what matters most – and why we appear to have forgotten to do this more in the countries, like the UK and the US, that are the most unequal. Then, and only then, can we ask what we should do about it.

Danny Dorling, 22nd March, 2016 on giving Radstats a free digital copy of his book, A Better Politics: How Government Can Make Us Happier.

Workshop on Future Radstats Publications

Come to York for the Radstats conference on Saturday, 27 February 2016

Statistics of crisis in UK and EU

and one day earlier for a workshop to discuss

Future Radical Statistics publications

Friday, 26 February 12:00 – 6:00 pm (in the same venue as the conference)
Please email RS2020@radstats.org.uk if you would like to come for the meeting.There will also be evening social events open to all in the same venue.

Background

The Radical Statistics 2015 conference triggered several suggestions regarding future RadStats publications. A followup discussion took place in October. View the report of this meeting and the papers discussed.

The proposals have now been distilled down to just two. Click on links for detail.

  1. Radical Statistics in the 2020s (RS2020)
  2. Statistics for Radical Change (SRC): A Handbook for Community and Political Activists

Future developments will be posted on the Activity page of this website.

Posted on behalf of John Bibby, Jeff Evans, Humphrey Southall and Rachel Cohen.

 

Osborne’s Autumn statement

Well, many of you will have seen the budget and Balls’ response which began with a good deal of stuttering, widely reported by no explanation. If anyone has a hypothesis about why Balls began his retort by effectively stuttering, I would be glad to know. Even though he recovered after a few minutes, his response wasn’t very effective.

The primary reason for that I would argue for his ineffectiveness is that Balls, and Ed as well, has no well developed alternative to articulate. Effectively, he and others in the Labour Party assume as true the neoliberal economic theories that underpin Osborne’s major policies, though he slightly modified them in this statement. Policies guided by neoliberal economic principles have failed not only this time but every time they have been tried, either in western countries or in developing countries. This is fundamentally because they have no empirical relationship to the real world. They only work in toy economies.

They look correct to some people because the Keynesian position has been distorted and Keynes didn’t quite get all of it right. After the publication of the General Theory, he was already thinking about how to revise it. The theory should really be called the Keynes-Kalecki theory, as in a review of the General Theory the year following its publication, Kalecki corrected errors in Keynes’ theory of effective demand.

QE, which King is so fond of, is ineffective re job creation because it directs funds to banks who either hoard it or use it to pay down their toxic balance sheets. Osborne almost seemed to realize this when he proposed infrastructure projects. However, it looked a bit too little too late. And he doesn’t yet seem to have bitten the bullet. Besides, the money that has been put into the various QEs undertaken by certain sovereign governments is not enough to even make a dent in the banks’ toxic balance sheets, so great are their debts. Basically, it is money thrown away.

An interview with Robert Choate showed that Choate, while not being able to criticize Osborne due his present position, showed that he knows that credit ratings are meaningless for sovereign states with their own currency and that government doesn’t have to borrow, unless it decides to because the relevant interest rate is low. As for the basic interest rate, it can be kept low in perpetuity. Taxes should be used to control inflation by inhibiting spending and to direct spending into certain areas, as well as legitimating the sovereign currency. They should never be thought of as a basis for government spending, because government doesn’t need taxes to back their spending, something Choate knows only too well.  When pressed by Paxman in the interview, to explain his hints, he only said that we will have to wait to find out in his memoirs. However, no one, even Paxman, later picked up on Choate’s hints in the interview about what he really thinks of Osborne’s policies.

To rely on exports when every other country with whom you would do business is experiencing the same difficulty is incredibly stupid and shows that Osborne doesn’t quite know what he is doing. His comments about those on welfare were exceedingly ignorant. The stupidity of his position is that people who aren’t working don’t really want to would only be true were there jobs to go to. The basic fact is that there are fewer jobs than there are people looking for them. The jobs have to be there first to justify his basic assumptions about people’s motivations. History does not support Osborne’s ignorant comments.
In fact, Osborne’s social policies and comments directed to those on benefits, who are obviously not well off, is redolent of the ideas of the late 19th and early 20th century social Darwinists. For those of you interested in the way in which evolutionary biological ideas creep into discussions of the nature of human society, it may be of interest to those who do not read in this area that Darwin did not subscribe to the view of unbridled competition even for the Primates. It follows mutatis mutandis that Darwin’s view of chimpanzees applies to human social groupings. This view of unbridled competition may have seemed self evident in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but seems rather dated now. Yet, the idea refuses to die. A number of Osborne’s social policies could have come right out of early 20th century social Darwinist tracts. One of social Darwinism’s greatest critics was Lester Ward. Alas, no commentator has yet made this connection. It seems so obvious to me. Am I missing something?

Now, one problem with the post by Pilkington is that it is rather technical. And it is a piece on the political economy of the financial sector rather than economics per se. That should make it easier to read, but for some it might not. Basically his message is that by putting the money back into banks, it acts as a feeder mechanism for financial speculation, which is what needs to be toned down rather than reinforced.

I have also included a piece from the Independent by David Blanchflower. His position is that Slasher Osborne’s jobs policies are guided, not by empirical evidence, but by ideology. We all know this, but is is salutary to see figures from the Department of Works and Pensions that reinforce this view. It is impossible to believe that millions of people are scroungers. It defies rational consideration.

Here are the links:

Blanchflower: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/comment/david-blanchflower/david-blanchflower-ideology-rules-the-coalitions-jobs-policies-8374461.html

Pilkington: http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2012/12/philip-pilkington-monetary-policy-and-metaphysics-how-economists-try-to-naturalise-terrible-policies-and-disappear-into-their-own-theories.html

Post contributed by Larry Brownstein