“How’s that welfare state working out for you?” “Pretty well when you use real statistics instead of fake ones”

Programmer (creator of Io, one of my favorite languages) & blogger Steve DeKorte linked to this “How’s that welfare state working out for you?” article, which purports to show that socialist nations are cesspools of poverty, and that very few Americans are very poor compared to, say, Norwegians.

I thought I’d better check it out, because I do buy into the idea that Americans as a whole and poor Americans in general would be far better off if we were considerably more socialist, and if that’s not true, well, I’d better find out why.

One of the commenters on that article pointed out that something looked funny about those statistics — when you multiply the fractions by the population of the countries, you get very small numbers — less than 20 individuals total in each of the countries. And indeed, the original source has a list of actual numbers rather than percentages — right here. And the numbers are a bit hard to credit. For example, there’s apparently 30% of a single human being in Luxembourg who lives on less than $11 a day. Apparently you could take a large bus full of poor people from any one of these countries to any other one and completely rearrange the rankings. So either the math is wrong there or these statistics are meaningless.

I checked and even on the list of $1 a day or less, if you look at absolute numbers, it shows less than 100 people living on $1 a day or less in the poorest countries on earth! I’m thinking the math is wrong.

Maybe what nationmaster.com thinks are absolute numbers are actually percentages?

According to this source, about 50% of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole lives on less than $1 a day. If that’s the case, these numbers are almost certainly percentages, not absolute numbers.

And if that’s true, these are meaningless numbers. These are the meaningful numbers, and they show the opposite of what the original article claimed — the most socialist of those nations actually have considerably fewer people living on a low income than the most capitalist ones. Though the disparity is not as great in the real statistics as it was (in the opposite direction) in the wrong ones.

I found the original research cited by Nationmaster.com. I was right. The real data does show very low poverty in socialist nations and higher ones in less socialist nations. Thank you, Google!

2 thoughts on ““How’s that welfare state working out for you?” “Pretty well when you use real statistics instead of fake ones””

  1. Hi Ed. I took a look at the Io language page on wikipedia. Interesting. Why is Io one of your favorite languages?

  2. IMHO, in terms of simplicity, minimalism, and deep elegance, Io makes Ruby look like Java. :)

    Plus I really dig the idea of prototype-based object orientation. It just makes sense to me. If classes are just a kind of object, why enshrine a distinction between classes and instances in the language?

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