Friday, November 05, 2010

A hundred trillion gazillion

Ian Duncan Smith says broken homes (whatever that might mean) cost the country (whatever that might mean) £100 billion. He said this to make a point about two-parent families and how important they are - and in modern politics, if you want to people to believe something matters, you have to put a price tag on it.

The price tag he chose, £100 billion, was apparently chosen pretty much at random, according to Edgar Gerrard Hughes at Full Fact. EGH tracks down IDS's stats to a report which, he notes, 'includes some projections that may overstate the total figure'. For example, it includes costs related to domestic violence and care for the elderly, which can hardly be blamed on falling marriage rates.

EGH adds:
Perhaps most contentiously, the authors consistently assume direct, one-way causal links between family breakdown and social problems. It is quite plausible that much of the causality could act in the opposite direction, or that various “third factors” - whether cultural, socio-economic or otherwise – account for the correlation.

So, with all these caveats, what figure do you think the report gave as the total cost of relationship breakdown? £37 billion. Thirty-seven. Not 100.

It's called anchoring, that - giving a falsely inflated  figure as a starting point will result in people's estimates of the 'true' figure being higher. So even people who think '£100 billion? Pah, it'll never be that much' will be affected subconsciously.

Surely, our magnificent press will rush to correct this 'mistake'?

Cue the Mail.

And the most recommended reader's comment reads:
so true...bring back the daddy from the shadows and into people's homes...a family with a man and a woman and a child is a family...The state cannot keep subsidising the single mom's(or feminists who believe that men are unnecessary) (Stewart, London)
Yeah, bring back the daddy. More of the top rated comments:
When LABOUR made it easy for young mothers to move out and get a place of their own, I realised back then that we as a nation would be facing these problems in years to come. But tony blair got his way and labour hailed it as a great thing. Perhaps thinking they would gather more votes by these dysfunctional familes. (Mutal Bilah, UK)
My God, you're right! If we make it more difficult for women to leave their husbands, domestic violence will fall for sure. And finally:
Of course the loony left have expended enormous effort in undermining the family unit because it is the basis of our society which they seek to destroy and then rebuild to their liking. (Ethel, London)
Of course.

So what have we learned today? That politicians will take unreliable figures and exaggerate them in order to promote their political agenda. That sections of the press will repeat this unquestioningly as fact. And that Daily Mail readers are a right bunch of bellends. Class dismissed.

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