Monday, 25 January 2010

Forecasts, Indices, and Lies

Tomorrow a number of crucial data about the British economy are to be released.  It is well known and attested that economic performance has been going from bad to worse, in terms of GDP, employment, inflation, deficit, public debt, external accounts - you name it. So, how is the Leader  to mystify the voters so close to elections he wishes did not have to be called?

First, there will be the usual time warp, concentrating on the short/long term dichotomy: things have been bad but they are improving  fast, and will be alright in the long run (for those of us who are still alive). Alternatively,  sights will be concentrated on the short run and the green-shoots and tendrils of Spring (never mind what might come after).  Whichever or both are peddled, the recession is behind us - we the  victims of the global crisis.

Second, there will be (as there always is)  sparse, sporadic, erratic and fundamentally irrelevant information about things getting better in some special respect. The environment is improving (well, it would, in the middle of a recession). Life expectancy is increasing (it had better, considering  the funding that has been  sunk into health). Swine flu, the most blatant of the disaster scenarios but there are others that failed to take, has been defeated.

Third, arbitrary and largely irrelevant indicators in fields where we excel are going to be produced, and added up, weighted and biased to concoct a synthetic indicator which, as long as it does not include real performance indices such as GDP, employment, inflation, public debt, external accounts etc, is going to look good and, above all, is set to increase instead of declining towards collapse.  Something like a "Genuine Progress Index", preferably known as the GPI and even more desirably,  sponsored by the OECD. This would include such measurements as the value of voluntary work, unpaid housework and child care, the value of leisure time (lots of it is currently being enjoyed by the unemployed as well as its more regular enjoyment by  rentiers); spurious indices of economic security; the maintenance of stocks of natural resources; health, crime, educational attainments.  Anything to divert attention from the real economy.

These grossly misleading indicators, proffered as raw data or cooked statistics will be on your  table shortly.


Odin's Raven said...

Labour doing what it does best - lying!

hatfield girl said...

Every country does it, Raven, don't you think? But only Labour has only lies.