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TorgoX (1933)


"Il est beau comme la retractilité des serres des oiseaux rapaces [...] et surtout, comme la rencontre fortuite sur une table de dissection d'une machine à coudre et d'un parapluie !" -- Lautréamont

Journal of TorgoX (1933)

Sunday October 13, 2002
04:59 PM

This post costs the US economy $822 billion dollars a year.

[ #8359 ]
Dear Log,

A private rule of thumb: The accuracy and general informational content of news reports that "[something] costs the US economy N billion dollars every [time period]" is inversely proportional to square of the N dollar figure. If something supposedly cost the US economy 5 billion dollars (over whatever time period), the concept is probably quite meaningful and also probably quite accurate. If something supposedly cost the US economy 50 billion, be prepared to doubt the methodology and to ask whether the concept might be slightly fishy. If something supposedly cost 500 billion, it's almost certainly total nonsense -- or worse than nonsense, it's a fallacy, because it has been dolled up so it can pass for a "fact".

The surprising fact is that you can account for the degree of speciousness/spuriousness of the media assertion just with the dollar figure -- you don't also need to correlate the period of time mentioned, nor do you need mythical quantification of the weirdness of the concept.

So the next time you hear someone report something like "stuttering costs the US economy 232 billon dollars a year", or child abuse, or grafitti, or pagers, don't say I didn't warn you

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  • by jjohn (22) on 2002.10.13 22:27 (#13869) Homepage Journal
    ATTN: TorgoX


    It has come to our attention that your online
    diary at USE.PERL.ORG has cost this company in
    the neighborhood of $822 billion dollars.  As
    valued as your thoughts are, this cost can no
    longer be born by this company in these trying
    economic times.  Therefore, we ask you to
    consider using some of these cost-cutting
    measures to help us to continue supporting
    your online content.

    * Eliminate unnecessary markup.

      Your use of fancy HTML entities accounts for
      much of the cost of publishing your journal.
      Please use single quotes (') or, if needed,
      two single quotes ('') in place of double
      quotes. You are enjoined from using those fancy
      side quotes in future entries. Bulleted lists
      will no longer use <UL> tags, but simple

      Blockquotes are RIGHT OUT.

    * Fewer entries with fewer words.

      You lead the USE.PERL.ORG community in number
      of posts.  Some of your entries are quite
      lengthy.  Please limit yourself to only one post
      per day of 25 words or fewer.

    * Serif fonts.

      You are no longer allowed to use san-serif
      fonts.  Serifs are there for a reason: to make
      the letters easier to scan.  The number of
      tech support calls this company has received
      from speed reading accidents alone has trebled
      since you published your first journal entry.

    Your attention to these requirements is greatly
  • Another useful measure is the number of significant figures. If something is alleged to have cost 4e10 currency units the report is a lot more trustworthy than if it's alleged to have cost 4.15235e10 currency units.