Sunday, October 17, 2010

Lies, White Lies, Statistics, and Satisfaction

The story behind this link is in Hebrew, and it's also full of conflicting statistics organized, as statistics are wont to be, in an order meant to confuse and obfuscate. Having said that, however, the gist is rather simple: Israelis are less rich than people in most OECD countries, the gap between rich and poor is greater, the proportion of the poor is larger, and Israelis are generally more satisfied with their lives and also more optimistic about their future than most other national groups.

Go figure.


Anonymous said...

I read these kind of findings recently quite often i.e. the poor are much happier than the rich

I understand it as a concerted action to convince us members of the "masses" that ponying up for the banksters' incompetence will make us less affluent but that since "money isn't everything" getting poorer will make us rediscover the really valuable things in life.

It uncomfortably reminds me of what I read in history books on how the Church used to console the masses when misery struck. They had an extra shtick in that they added: all you suffer now you will be rewarded for in afterlife. I don't think they ever promised something as specific as 72 virgins though.

That said no matter how furious this spin makes me I nonetheless am pretty sure that I score high on the happiness scale even if that means to have to save up longer before being able to buy the new iPod.

And of course I hope that Israelis are the exception and figures on them haven't been "spinned"


Paul M said...

I don't have the Hebrew, sadly, to read the Ynet story Yaacov links to, so I don't know that it's trying to make the pitch that Silke thinks it is, about the virtues of poverty. However, Samuel Johnson had the perfect answer to efforts of that kind:

"All the arguments which are brought to represent poverty as no evil, show it to be evidently a great evil. You never find people laboring to convince you that you may live happily upon a plentiful fortune."

Anonymous said...

thanks Paul
more proof why I like Brits ;-)

Dimitry said...

Well, the general statistics are somewhat misleading, since there are two groups in Israel that are in a significantly worse situation than others (the article only hints at this) -- the Haredim and the Muslim Arabs. Their situation is comparable, if not better, than the situation of Muslim minorities in the European countries, but they constitute a more significant portion of the population (Ben Dror Yemini had a good article on the subject a while back). If we take the Jewish and Christian Arab population and compare to Europe, we'd have more similar numbers (not to say that Israel doesn't have problems :)). The article also omits several issues, such as the crisis in Europe today, similar to which Israel had already faced in 2003. European countries are only now talking about raising their retirement age etc. Then, there are issues of military budget, which is significantly larger in Israel than in Europe (in comparative terms). And, finally, it also ignores the fact that Israel's economy had consistently outgrew European economies during the last ten years.
What I am basically saying is that such statistics only tell a part of the story.