Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Super Vox vs the ignorant

Personally, I think we - as in the majority of people - get the politicians we deserve; trite, smarmy, superficial, ignorant, vacuous, grasping, bigoted, lazy, vain, power obsessed arse biscuit mediocrities for the most part. I'd even go so far as to say that's a reasonable enough reflection of the electorate. For me the point is all the stuff needed to challenge all the kinda shit being used to justify the current mass fucking of the general public is readily available, it's just for the most part people don't bother their arses to get it, opting instead to be spoon-fed, when they can be bothered to eat even more, self-serving, prejudiced pap via the mainstream, mass media.

I've discussed this with a fabulous person about how its dead easy to find good analysis and good questions about lots of important stuff. We disagree. For me though an important example of what's already out there though is the fantastic Vox site, which on a daily basis publishes new, relatively easy* to read articles by economists about economic shit that matters at a time when its fair to say "it's the economy stupid".

To be fair Vox does need to be approached selectively, however doing so ain't particularly challenging. Like skimming thru it it's clear a lot of articles can be categorised as quick as you like.

First off there’s the weird such as “Overweight adolescents and risky sexual behaviour”, by Susan L. Averett, Hope Corman and Nancy E. Reichman, which used “econometric techniques” to show fat birds are more likely to take it up the bahookie (or possibly more likely to admit to doing so, something their methodology doesn’t appear to take into account).

Then there is the stupid like “Awareness of poverty over three centuries”, by Martin Ravallion, which in a manner reminiscent of Fogel and Engerman and Time on the Cross confuses being able to count with having something to say (the author identifies 2 “poverty enlightenments” in the late C18th and then in the 1960s based on the number of times the word “poverty” appears in google books, I shit you not, a “methodology” that ignores tiddly stuff like the Liberal social reforms of the 1900s, the great muthafuckin depression between the wars and the creation of the British welfare state in 1945. Alternatively of course the author has simply failed to spot an American bias in his sources).

And finally there is the “ooh look at me I can do pointlessly fancy sums and graphs” of which there are too many to mention. As a fer instance you could click here.

But, scrolling pass utter dreck like the above, dear god you stumble across some gems. Of course before paying to much attention to them its worth doing a quick sanity check, which essentially involves seeing if the author is at a good university or some other fancy dancy institution. If not fuck ‘em, he’ll get ignored by his peers anyway regardless of the quality of his research because he’s not - lets be honest its pretty much all “he” - in the right conference and journal circles. Or even easier just click on “editor’s choice”.

Anyhoo, aside from bods like Uri Dadush and Bennett Stancil asking fuck off important questions like "Is the euro rescue succeeding?", the latest article I think is brilliant is an historical account of the IMF’s failure to spot the current financial crisis by Biagio Bossone called "At the shrink’s bed: The IMF, the global crisis and the Independent Evaluation Office report".

For me this is a fantastic summary of how terribly important and intelligent people got it utterly fucking wrong. It details the intellectual assumptions that blinded them to what was happening, the vested interests and outside influences that discouraged them from stating what they actually thought (e.g. “they felt their careers would be in jeopardy if their views did not conform to those of the authorities”) and makes some sensible suggestions as to how to make things better, give or take the final pithy comment “Will those who caused the IMF to fail now help it to change?” (Duh, yes! Well at least yes they'll be there making changes its the whether or not these will make a difference that matters).

Great stuff and a model of succinct well thought out analysis all the accountants and management consultants being paid with our tax payer fivers to investigate shit could do well to learn from. Two quick points though. One, I reckon it’d be a piece of piss to turn this article into an account of what happened at all the British banks that failed (and the FSA) in about 10 minutes. And two, yer man writes a great article but I think it needs one more really important thing, which is this – could the cunts that fucked everything up for millions of people please start getting named, shamed and being forced to pay a real price for having done so? Following on from that what kind of pussies does it make us if they don’t?

* Running a Vox article thru a readibility test gives a Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease of 60.8 with a score of 60-80 (the higher the easier) being easy for a 12-15 year olds to understand.

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