Is this the worst government statistic ever created?

April 23rd, 2012 by Ben Goldacre in economics, evidence based policy, government reports, politics, pr guff, statistics | 23 Comments »

I forgot to post this column up last year. It’s a fun one: the Department for Communities and Local Government have produced a truly farcical piece of evidence, and promoted it very hard, claiming it as good stats. I noticed the column was missing today, because Private Eye have published on the same report in their current issue, finding emails that have gone missing through FOI applications, and other nonsense. That part is all neatly summarised online in the Local Government Chronicle here.

Is this the worst government statistic ever created?

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, 24 June 2011.

Every now and then, the government will push a report that’s so assinine, and so thin, you have to check it’s not a spoof. The Daily Mail was clear in its coverage: “Council incompetence ‘costs every household £452 a year’“; “Up to £10bn a year is wasted by clueless councils.” And the Express agreed. Where will this money come from? “Up to £10bn a year could be saved … if councils better analysed spending from their £50bn procurement budgets.” Read the rest of this entry »

Benford’s Law: using stats to bust an entire nation for naughtiness.

September 23rd, 2011 by Ben Goldacre in crime, economics, statistics, structured data | 8 Comments »

Ben Goldacre, The Guardian, Saturday 17 September 2011

This week we might bust an entire nation for handing over dodgy economic statistics. But first: why would they bother? Well, it turns out that whole countries have an interest in distorting their accounts, just like companies and individuals. If you’re an Euro member like Greece, for example, you have to comply with various economic criteria, and there’s the risk of sanctions if you miss them. Read the rest of this entry »

Home taping didn’t kill music

June 5th, 2009 by Ben Goldacre in bad science, economics, evidence, evidence based policy, politics | 102 Comments »

Ben Goldacreimage
The Guardian
Saturday 6th June 2009

You are killing our creative industries. “Downloading costs billions” said the Sun. “MORE than seven million Brits use illegal downloading sites that cost the economy billions of pounds, Government advisors said today. Researchers found more than a million people using a download site in ONE day and estimated that in a year they would use £120bn worth of material.”

Read the rest of this entry »