Ropke: Statistics

“Is the British economist Professor Ely Devons right when he says (Lloyds Bank Review [July, 1954]) that the role of statistics in our societies has a striking resemblance with some of the functions of magic and divination in primitive societies? ‘Statistical magic, like its primitive counterpart, is a mystery to the public; and like primitive magic it can never be proved wrong… The oracle is never wrong; a mistake merely reinforces the belief in magic. It merely demonstrates conclusively that unless you do everything the right way you will get the wrong answer. So with us, bad forecasts rarely discredit statistical magic; they merely serve to demonstrate that the basic figures were bad, that the model was wrong or the statistician mistaken in his interpretation. Next time we shall use better figures, better models, and of course the statisticians and econometricians today would never make the silly misinterpretations made in 1944, 1945 or 1946. We are convinced, rightly or wrongly, that this is the scientific procedure and we are going to stick to it.'”

– Wilhem Röpke, A Humane Economy (p. 254)


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