DISTRUST OF STATISTICS
Inspite of the usefulness of statistics and the confidence of the people in its efficacy, some people have misgivings about it and they distrust it. Those who distrust statistics make the following observations about it:
- In the words of Disraeli, “There are three kinds of lies- lies, damned lies and statistics”
- (Statistics is a rainbow of lies.
- Statistics are tissues of falsehood.
- Statistics can prove anything.
- Statistics cannot prove anything
- Statistics are like clay of which you can make god or devil, as you please.
Distrust Of statistics
It is evident from the above observations that statistics are nothing but bundle of lies and so are not trustworthy. The main cause of mistrust is that most of the people believe statistics readily Thus, to take undue advantage of their credulity, some selfish people make misuse of the statistical data. They can present the statistics in such a distorted way as to prove right what is wrong and wrong what is right. For instance, the government claimed that in 1994-95, per capita income in India increased by about 5 percent and as such economic planning was a success. On the other hand, the opposition party claimed that is 1994-95, per capita income increased by 1.5 per cent only and as such economic planning was a failure. Statistics presented by the government as well as opposition party are correct, the only snag is that government statistics are calculated at current prices while the statistics presented by the opposition party are calculated at 1980-81 constant prices. Main causes of the mistrust of statistics are as under:
- Different kinds of statistics are obtained in respect of a given problem.
- Statistics can be altered to prove predetermined conclusions.
- Authentic statistics can also be presented in such a manner as to confuse the reader.
- When statistics are collected in a partial manner, the results are mostly wrong. Consequently people lose faith in them.
It may be noted that if statistics are presented in a wrongful manner, the fault does not lie with the statistics. The fault lies with those people who collect wrong statistics or those who draw wrong conclusions. Statistics, as such, do not prove anything. They are simply tools in the hands of the statisticians. If the statistician misuses the data, then the blame lies squarely on the statistician and not on the data. A competent doctor can cure the malady by making good use of the medicine but the same medicine in the hands of an incompetent doctor becomes poison. The fault in this case is not of the medicine but of the unqualified doctor. In the same way, statistics are never faulty. It is pertinently said, “Figures would not lie, but liar figure”.
In fact, statistics should not be relied upon blindly nor distrusted outright. “Statistics should not be used as blind man uses a lamp post for support rather than for illumination, whereas its real purpose is to serve as illumination and not as a support” In making use of statistics one should be cautious and vigilant. In the words of King, “The science of statistics is the most useful servant, but only of great value to those who understand its proper use” In short, it is the duty of the students of economics to make use of the knowledge of statistics to seek the truth.
Remedies to Remove Distrust
- Consideration of Statistical Limitations – While making use of statistics, limitations of statistics must be taken care of, for instance, statistics should be homogeneous.
- No Bias – Researcher should be impartial. He should make use only of proper data and draw conclusions without any bias or prejudice.
- Application by Experts – Statistics should be used only by the experts. If they use it carefully and scientifically, the possibilities of errors will be little.