April 23, 2010

Western Hero: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Good Job Silverfiddle… Saw this and had to repost it.  Facts are so damned Inconvenient to the Liberal Mind.  Frankly someone as ruled by emotion as Liberals typically are have a weak grasp of logic and facts anyway. I saw this same study and had very similar thoughts.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

Statistics are great for getting to down to brass tacks and weeding the BS out of a debate, but they are not the nail that closes the lid on a case.  Consider Major League Baseball, a realm awash in statistics.  Experts still argue over who was the best hitter or second baseman.

Bill Quigley at Common Dreams wrote a piece entitled "Nine Myths about Socialism in the United States."

His argument is that those on the right who accuse the government of creeping socialism are engaging in hysteria. He argues that we do not have socialism in this country by plucking statistics from an OECD study, favoring categories that we lag behind in.  We are not socialist, he argues, because we are embarrassingly behind in areas like mandatory maternity leave, worker and family support (whatever that means), and education spending.

First off, he's tilting at straw men, probably in an attempt to lampoon conservatives who have overused the "S word."  We do have some Western European-style socialistic ideas creeping in, but few rightwingers are raising the specter of Soviet tanks rolling into the town square.

I find it funny that implicit in his argument is that if we were socialist we would rank high in these categories.  So while he chastises conservatives for indiscriminate use of the socialist smear, he tacitly argues that more of it would be a good thing.  Also, ridiculously, his argument presumes there is a socialist Valhalla somewhere out there where everyone is taken care of, and if we only provided more social services like the Europeans do all would be Nirvana here.

Yes, the European safety net is more generous than ours, but they suffer chronic double-digit unemployment, high rates of permanent disability, and have less living space.  Which would you prefer? 

Common sense makes you scratch your head and think "Somethin' ain't right...  How can Cuba have a better health care system than the US?  Why aren't heads of state flocking there (or to Finland) instead of the US?  Why did Cuba's communist dictator call for Spanish doctors when he fell ill?

A statistic without context is just a sterile number.  Placing it in context and relating it to relevant facts, unwinding it, is where we actually learn something useful. 

Consider these three facts about life in These United States:

  • Women make less than men 
  • Life expectancy is lower and infant mortality is higher than in other developed nations
  • Young women pay more than young men for health insurance

Not fair?  Let's investigate!

Why Women get paid less than men

Dr. Thomas Sowell shows how one can aggregate or disaggregate sample data to make a point.

A good example is pay inequality.  Men make more than women.  Stated technically, the male cohort in the Unites states makes more than the female cohort, on a per person basis.  Sounds bad, doesn't it?  Well, women take time off to have babies and care for sick friends and relatives more than men do, causing them as a group to have more interruptions in work history.  Some professions place a premium on that.  

But put that aside and look at education.  Are men more educated?  No.  Aha!  But wait.  

All college degrees are not deemed equal in the marketplace.  Men tend to get the degrees that earn high income, while women tend more towards liberal arts and social sciences, which do not make as much money.  Compare profession by profession, and the pay disparity disappears.

Life Expectancy and Infant Mortality

BigGovHealth breaks this one down, as does David Hogberg.  Life expectancy is lower here, but not because of our health care system.  We are an adventurous and violent people.  Control for murders and accidents, and our life expectancy actually beats everybody.  Dying from a drive-by shooting or losing your grip while cliff climbing is not the fault of the greatest health care system in the world. 

Infant Mortality numbers are affected by how a country defines and reports it.  We use a broader definition than Canada and European countries, which increases our numbers.

WebMD notes that a higher incidence of premature births in the US contributes to our high numbers, and BigGovHealth shows that Europe and Canada don't even report certain categories of preemie deaths.

Teen pregnancies and women over 40 giving birth are higher risk categories, and we have more of those.  Add in octo-mom scenarios caused by fertility drugs, where it is rare for all babies to survive, and we have a more complete picture.

Studies and anecdotal data have shown that some communities lack access to adequate pre-natal care, but is that a valid reason to reorder the nation's entire health care system?  And why play games to make things look worse than they are?  It must be to manipulate the masses.

Why young women pay more for health insurance than young men

Consider this simple fact:  Young women pay more for health insurance than young men.  Unfair, right?

The reason is that women in their childbearing years consume more health care, and more expensive care, than men.  Also, as people age, it flips:  Men over 50 pay more for health insurance than women in the same age category.  Still unfair? 

It's not fair!

We can argue whether all of this is "fair," as liberals are wont to do, but let's establish facts first before the jousting begins.  A logical next step for the liberal would be to set up laws that make an employer not consider work experience or degree discipline, and to demand insurance companies charge everybody the same rate.  I'll leave it to you to consider the consequences...

The life expectancy and infant mortality information, placed in context, shuts down the "inadequate health care is killing Americans" argument.  Do people lack health care in this country?  You betcha!  But you need to find another line of argumentation, this one has been disproved.

The next time you see anyone spouting statistics, go and search for an opposing (or corroborating) point of view.

Posted by Silverfiddle

Western Hero: Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics

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