I’m giving you on count of three, to show your stuff, or let it be. I’m telling you, just watch your mouth. I know your game, what you’re about. The 1987 classic by the late Michael Jackson gives some good advice to politicians like New York’s own Senator Charles Schumer, who seems to think banning just about any human activity is his job.
This conclusion can be made from an article published on Breitbart.com (Huston, Warner Todd, Feds Killing off Private Bus Lines Based on Bad Study, May 13, 2013) that references research by the Reason Foundation. According to Reason, the factually challenged Senator is basing his weekly call for banning something on a National Transportation Safety Board report that is not only statistically flawed, but does not even appear to be based on the data that it cites.
In this case, according to Reason (Epstein, Jim, Government Assault on the Chinatown Bus Industry Fueled By Bogus Federal Study, Reason.com, May 7, 2013), the report is so poorly constructed that it is completely bogus. Not only is the headline figure incorrect, but “The entire report is a mangle of inaccurate charts and numbers that tell us virtually nothing meaningful about bus safety. There’s no evidence that curbside or Chinatown buses are any less safe than any other kind of bus.”
The Reason article points out all of the problems with the particular government study, but I think a quote from Aaron Brown, a quantitative analyst with the hedge fund AQR Capital Management says it best. According to Brown, “When I first read the NTSB report, I thought this is just terrible statistics, but it goes way beyond that. It’s almost as if someone took some random data and shook it together.”
Unfortunately, this is common with government and government funded studies. According to an article in The Atlantic (Freedman, David , Lies, Damned Lies, and Medical Science, The Atlantic, October 4, 2010), nearly 80 percent of non-randomized medical studies (by far the most common type of medical research) eventually turn out to be wrong. This is serious, since reactionary politicians like Senator Schumer, and our wonderful Nanny Bloomberg, try to force the entire population to behave in certain ways, usually based on this very type of poor research.
In most cases, these government funded reports are purposely fraudulent and are generated solely to help lobby for additional monies – the government lobbying itself. I was recently interviewed by a television station in Wisconsin about one of these very types of reports, funded by the government and private charities and produced by a prohibitionist organization. The report was based on only minimal data, incorrect statistical techniques (actually no statistical techniques), and self-serving assumptions, with the goal of encouraging Wisconsin to raise its alcohol taxes. The television report was completely one-sided, presenting this lobbying material as if it were fact – when it was completely devoid of any factual information.
During my interview, I made a comment – which was of course removed from the television piece where I said, that bad studies (I hate to use the word research) are a serious problem particularly when they are used to support or justify policy.
Simply put, you cannot solve real problems, be they problems associated with alcohol consumption, or with terrible motorcoach accidents by making up data and statistics. At best, bad research will lead to ineffectual and expensive policies, at worst it will lead to dangerous ones. In the case of the NTSB report, it will lead to both. Eliminating the inexpensive Chinatown buses, will not only cost travelers money since they will need to switch to more expensive options, but could actually increase fatalities since driving in private automobiles is much more dangerous than traveling on any sort of mass transportation alternative.
Politicians, the media and others who blindly rely on these government-funded documents should take Mr. Jackson’s lyrics to heart. I know your game, what you’re about.