[OPE] Great Depression jobs parallel

From: Jurriaan Bendien <adsl675281@tiscali.nl>
Date: Thu Jan 22 2009 - 17:20:09 EST

It is true that the growing "informal economy" makes it more difficult to survey and count those who perform paid work, but in fact there are now substantial resources going into the statistical analysis of the informal economy, based on population counts and transaction volumes.

In part, the reason for this is their financial significance for fiscal (taxation and subsidization) purposes. Of course, the original practical reason for censuses and "political arithmetick" which evolved into statistics was mainly to enable appropriate tax levies and estimate tax yields.

Modern sample survey techniques make it possible - in a very cost effective way - to conduct integrated, intercensal sample surveys of whole populations, identifying their employment status, income and asset holdings. In other words, you can ask a sample of people what they do in daily life, their source of income, assets and so on, and then generalise that to the whole population. The limit is not really in what we can technically know or find out, but what the bureaucrats allow us to study using quality techniques.

The general principle known among scientists is that the bureaucrats permit information which justifies their policy, but reject information which is contrary to their policy. In part, this is quite healthy and ethical, since information wrongly distributed can be harmful to the interests of citizens, but it can also be a matter of sectional political interests. The bureaucrats in this sense typically create their own "survey empires" which often make little scientific sense, and they are apt to adulterate statistical concepts to suit their own ideology, making it difficult to extract the information that really matters to people.

Maybe it's not possible to obtain completely accurate data on the economically active population, but insofar as you want to understand the objective proportions of things, you do need the statistical evidence.
In the socialist movement, we think that statistical analysis is very valuable, important and useful, even if we also acknowledge the pitfalls and problems inherent in this method of obtaining knowledge. Marx & Engels also made very extensive use of statistical information.

You might like Jeffrey Harrod's investigations of this topic, see e.g. http://www.jeffreyharrod.eu/summaries.html .


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Received on Thu Jan 22 17:27:08 2009

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