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Confessions of a number-cruncher: this is what we get wrong about statistics

The head of the Institute for Fiscal Studies on how damned lies get served up with statistics

By Paul Johnson   March 2018

I trade in numbers, and am passionate about them. From crime rates to the climate, we need them to describe and make sense of the world around us. But I’ve also learned to be very cautious in their company. They don’t just help us to interpret the world, they can be powerful enough to change it too—and not always for the better.

A focus on one number, a shock balance of trade deficit that was published three days before a general election, is said to have done for Harold Wilson’s premiership in…

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