No Conspiracy Theory -- Just Data

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 11:53 AM

One of the things people do not understand is a basic truth about the BLS, BEA, Commerce Department, and other government data sources. I get constant emails warning me of the dark cabals manipulating the official releases.

While I have been critical over the years of the models and methodologies employed, I do not believe this is any grand conspiracy.

Sure, the headlines are often misleadingly spun, but the data is all there for whoever wants to peruse it. Indeed, if you strap on your green visor, you can find all of the data releases for Inflation, Unemployment, GDP, New Home Sales, Durable Goods, etc. The non-seasonally adjusted non hedonics, no substitutions data is all right there. You need only bring a critical eye and a dollop of skepticism, and you can usually deduce the real meaning beneath the spin.   

In fact, the Truth is actually much worse than any conspiracy: Its as if the government is saying:

"Conspiracy theory? Ha! We don't need to bother fabricating anything -- we dump ALL of the data to the web each month, and that site gets less traffic than a dog's blog in Kuala Lumpur.

We just think you couch potatoes are too lazy, too dumb, too easily distracted by other nonsense to really look at the actual data. Heavy lifting? Actual thinking? Working to figure out what is really going on? Don't make us laugh!"

And you know what? They'd be right.

Even most conspiracy theories are just a lazy approach to the data . . .

Thursday, November 29, 2007 | 11:53 AM | Permalink | Comments (20) | TrackBack (1)
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» What Conspiracy? from The Big Picture
All models are flawed, but not worthless. I enjoy intelligent criticism. It forces you to tighten up your analysis, more aggressively dig up facts, communicate your position more effectively. Good criticism should be challenging, eloquent, and raise th... [Read More]

Tracked on Jun 20, 2008 7:34:55 AM

Comments

Yeah, the data is there, but actually figuring out how the various indices are constructed--and what they really mean--would probably take several days of effort per index.

Business media could do everyone a big favor if instead of just reporting (say) the CPI and speculating as to its future direction they would publish "A User's Guide to the CPI" which explains its assumptions and the implications of those assumptions.

Posted by: david foster | Nov 29, 2007 12:14:17 PM

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