Delicious, Delicious Data Part II

I’m not particularly interested in the politics of politics, which is a little bit weird, I think, but not that weird. I mean, you could pay attention to palace intrigue stories, tales of dealmaking and backstabbing, but why would you, when you can pay attention to stories about tax proposals and state K-12 funding systems?

It’s not that I don’t care about the more salacious gossip. I enjoy a scandal as much as the next dude. It’s just that I enjoy data more than most people. By that I mean that I enjoy data more than most people do, but it’s also true that I enjoy data more than I enjoy most people.

Data makes sense to me, or at least, it can. The promise of data, unspoken, is that it is always intelligible, if not intuitive. If you put in the work required to understand it, it will make sense. Data plays fair in that way. It obeys rules. And even if the people who use it lie and dissemble, the data doesn’t. The data can’t.

I find that people are more complicated than data, and they often disappoint.

That’s why I was so excited about USA Facts, and why I spend so much time on the Tax Policy Center’s website, and why I’ve been poring over the Macon-Bibb 2017 Budget–because numbers are solid, and they react in predictable ways, and if you want to change them, all you need to do is think rationally about the right policy. If you want to convince someone that you’re right, you don’t have to appeal to emotion or lie to them, you can just show them the numbers. Because the numbers can’t lie.

At least, that’s the promise of data. It’s up to us to be honest brokers.



Categories: Dispatch

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