Monday, November 1, 2010

Against the Kristof/Friedman Comparative "Method"

. Monday, November 1, 2010

Texas in Africa takes out the trash:

Even though Kristof has more anecdotes than your average observer, it's still not evidence. As @WrongingRights tweeted while quoting her dad, "The plural of anecdote isn't data." Data that isn't gathered systematically isn't data at all. ...

Because Kristof's only research method is his personal observation, we can't be sure that he's not simply making general claims on outliers. He's not using data; he's using anecdotes. And anecdotes are a slippery slope on which to base claims about the kind of aid work that will best aid the world's poor.

At least Kristof talks to professional aid workers and NGOs. It's possible that their opinions are based on underlying data, or at least a model, and that he's getting good information from them. Friedman's method -- "the boy pulling my rickshaw in Mumbai is more optimistic than the farmer at the Dairy Queen in Topeka, therefore India must be in better shape than America" -- is even worse. How much worse I can't say. But it has to be worse.


Against the Kristof/Friedman Comparative "Method"




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