Friday, January 8, 2010

Misusing Numbers

A favorite hobby of many special interest groups is "lying" through the use of statistics. This recently cropped with regards to the veracity of the scientific "proof" underlying global warming. In a similar vain, the Technology Liberation Front hosted an article by Steven Titch "Is This What Market Failure Looks Like?" regurgitating a mind numbing stream of numbers (such as number of text messages sent) that purportedly document that the free market is healthy. Mr. Titch, then concludes that: "Metrics such as these are the best weapon against attempts at regulation, especially from an administration keen to find a “market failure” rationale wherever it looks. High-tech consumer electronics remains a bright spot in what has been a down economy. It is best left on its own to thrive."

What is wrong with Mr. Titch's post is that numbers in isolation and without context mean nothing. Raw numbers by themselves do not prove nor do they disprove the success of the free market. Furthermore, these numbers do not prove nor do they disprove the beneficial/disadvantageous effects of regulation. All the raw numbers document is activity.

As Mr. Titch published his post, there were stories behind the raw data. Currently the cable companies and the content providers are fighting over subscription fees. The New York Times reported that: In a Clash Over Cable, Consumers Lose. The Washington Post reports that "Netflix to delay delivery of Warner's latest DVDs". The clear implication of these articles is that the companies are not really competing within the idyllic concept of the free market. Frankly these agreements, besides limiting consumer choice, raise serious questions concerning collusion and the utilization of monopolistic business practices. Hardly free market ideals.

What continues to disappoint is that we have a website that purports to be an advocate for technological freedom but seemingly overlooks corporate business practices that frustrate technological freedom. I previously discussed this issue here:"Nanny State Hypocrisy?" If the Technology Liberation Front is serious about improving technological freedom use real scientifically valid research to document the functioning of the free market (good and bad). Don't simply just throw-out a bunch of meaningless gibberish to see what sticks.

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