Sunday, January 27, 2008

Coffee House: Fraser Fast and Loose With Stats

Fraser Nelson at the Spectator Coffee House blog likes Nick Clegg and dislikes the United Kingdom's ranking for total percentage change in the raw ratio of government spending to GDP right here. Bit of a mouthful that isn't it? The impression being given - particularly to those wanting to recieve that - is that the United Kingdom is a terrible big spender at second of 28 countries.

A pretty disingenuous table I'd say, right. UK is around 10th in the table on absolute ratio and France and Sweden and Denmark are much higher (and happier for it with more doctors and teachers etc per head etc). Germany is much the same as the UK.

As I recall UK still have less public workers than in the last years of Mrs Thatcher. Ranking by change or even rate of change of change etc are the means for the more ignoble of statisticians or their masters to give us the impression they want without necessarily reflecting more important realities.

Part of the camouflage for this statistical naughtiness is to point at James Purnell's interpretation of employment statistics. Rather than say worklessness ones that Fraser expects.


ThunderDragon said...

I'm sorry, but are you trying to suggest that the term "full employment" doesn't mean "no-one claiming unemployment benefit"? If it doesn't mean that, what the hell does it mean?

Chris Paul said...


Full employment is generally taken to be 1 or 2% off 100% to allow for churn, elective unemployment and wasters. And/or defined in terms of available vacancies vs seekers.

Clearly JP is chancing his arm a bit talking of Full Employment without defining it.

Fraser though is roping in those who are - under current systems, invented by Tories - gettign ivalidity benefit and the like.

But that's a distraction. What about the main point of this post. Viz. that the total change over a long period table is deliberately misleading with the UK actually in the mid table cluster?

Has that Tory chancer with the dodgy bar chart removed it yet?