Statistics: Why Figures Don’t Lie, But Liars Figure…

The Barrister's Toolbox

More and more, figures and statistical information finds it way into litigation, both criminal and civil. At some point in your career as an attorney you will need to understand what can and cannot be accomplished in utilizing statistics. Most laypersons and attorneys are ill-equipped to handle such information. Oftentimes experts can find refuge in statistics which may or may not be truly relevant to the legal issue you are confronting. As Mark Twain (a/k/a Samuel Clemons) famously noted:

“Figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

Another often quoted quip is:

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics.”

In litigation, you will often hear someone argue that the odds of being injured in a particular fashion are so low that a jury should not compensate them. However, there is a real risk in engaging in such post hoc analysis. How would you feel for example, if the…

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Gary Becker: Fear, Technology, & Education

Grumpy old hippies on the iPhone generation

HT: Sean Fitzpatrick

Are Transaction Costs a Distraction?

Organizations and Markets

| Nicolai Foss |

Yes, says Harold Demsetz in a paper, “Ownership and the Externality Problem,” which was published in 2003, but which I only read recently (there does not seem to exist an online version; the paper is chpt. 11 in this book).  

Consider the steel mill and the laundry of the Traditional Externality Tale. The two firms could merge, in which case externalities per definition would be absent. This, of course, only substitutes (additional) management costs (the costs of reduced specialization) for the transaction costs of market exchange. The former may exceed the latter in which case specialization is preferable, but then externalities emerge. 

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Edmund Phelps on inequality, innovation and entrepreneurship


In the good old days, everyone agreed on the employment effects of minimum wage laws, even their supporters


Million dollar taxi licenses under pressure from Uber at last

Singapore: A Remarkable Free-Market Success Story

Singapore has done well, but real consumption per capita is about 20% less than Hong Kong despite similar GDP per capita because of government waste through the government linked corporation

International Liberty

I’ve written about the success of Hong Kong (particularly when compared to nations such as Cuba, France, and China), but haven’t paid as much attention to Singapore.

But it’s time to correct that oversight. I’m motivated to write about Singapore because of a story that reveals one of the unique features of that jurisdiction: The bureaucracy gets monetarily rewarded if the economy prospers.

Here are some passages from a Bloombergreport.

In Singapore, civil-servant bonuses rise and fall with the economy’s performance… The nation…links civil servants’ bonuses to how well the $298 billion economy does. …Civil servants are typically paid a variable incentive twice a year, on top of a fixed one-month bonus. The mid-year payment was skipped in 2009, when the economy contracted during the global recession. …“Singapore may be one of the few countries that explicitly pegs bonuses to growth,” said Vishnu…

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Treat scientific advice on global warming like advice from your doctor


1. Physicians may not agree on the medical condition causing the symptoms the patient presents.

2. Even if physicians agree on their diagnoses, they often do not agree on the efficacy of alternative responses — for example, surgery or medical management for lower-back pain.

3. The reason patients seek advice and treatment is that they expect physicians to have vastly superior knowledge about the proper diagnosis and efficacy of treatment.

4. Medicine proceeds on the basis of double blind trials and other small field experiments. Control and treatment groups are used before any treatment is applied widely.

5. Medicine is not perfect as was the case with the misdiagnosis of the causes of stomach ulcers.

6. The lag between cause and effect are short as would be the case if you rejected emergency treatment after a car accident or cancer treatment.

7. Medicine tests the efficacy of invasive treatments, weighs side-effects and encourages adaptation and prevention.

8. The staying power of self-interest in medicine is well-known: much higher rates of surgery when there is fee for service and much lower rates of surgery if the patient is a doctor or his partner. The efforts of the medical profession to suppress competition is well-known.


The share of income spent on food has plummeted in the US


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