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The Evil Temptation of Numbers
|Census Canada Table 5 Low wages 1993-2004|
The whole of social science has been similarly broadsided by the arithmetical mania. It is worth noting that the greatest economic thinkers, from Smith through Hayek, wrote almost entirely without tables and charts, dwelling instead on the consequences of morally loaded ideas, whereas the demographic muse led economists like Malthus into monstrous visions of purely imaginary catastrophes, and wicked speculations about what would be needed to avoid them.
Likewise, the environmentalism of our own age is contaminated throughout by this Malthusian propensity to follow the numbers out the window. Never listen to people who think the cure for human problems is to reduce the number of humans. Their minds are diseased.
Too great precision, in a matter that does not admit of precision, is an evil in itself. And if Aristotle could explain this, with clarity, something like 2,340 years ago, we should have caught on by now. Indeed, it was from that sage that I learned to distrust the motives of those seeking too great precision and realized that much modern science, too, is reduced to scientism by statistical methods.Related articles by Zemanta