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One Percent Doctrine in Real Life

John Allen Paulos column on the One Percent Doctrine;

“…Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' … Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."…

Imagine what would happen in various everyday situations were the Cheney doctrine to be applied. A young man is in a bar and another man gives him a hard stare. If the young Cheneyite feels threatened and believes the probability to be at least 1 percent that the other man will shoot him, then he has a right to preemptively shoot him in "self-defense."

Or an older woman visits her Cheneyite doctor who, finding that the woman has suffered from a sore throat and fatigue for months, orders that she be put on chemotherapy since the likelihood of cancer is in his opinion at least 1 percent. Further tests, he might argue, would take too long.

A Cheneyite gambler would be a casino's dream. The chance of rolling a 12 with a pair of dice, for example, is 1/36, almost 3 percent, and hence would justify the gambler betting his house on rolling a 12.

And what about a Cheneyite scientist, hard as that may be to conceive? If this scientist decided that the "evidence" for some crackpot scientific theory suggested to him that its probability were at least 1 percent, the scientist would feel comfortable touting it as a reasonable alternative to established theory."

Why Mentors are Important

Even criminals need mentors!

"Our analysis," write Morselli, Tremblay and McCarthy, "focuses on the effects of mentors on two aspects of criminal achievement: illegal earnings and incarceration experiences ... Proteges with lower self-control attract the attention of some criminal mentors, who provide the structure and restraint that lead to a more prudent approach to crime. This approach involves fewer and more profitable offences that lower the risks of apprehension and, perhaps, promote long-term horizons in crime."

The researchers used a painstaking protocol: "We collected information on monthly illegal earnings and on the number of days that respondents were incarcerated. After calculating the total for criminal earnings and incapacitation experiences for the period, we applied logarithmic transformations to create our dependant variables."

Their calculation resulted in a big payoff. As they put it: "Our findings suggest that strong foundations in crime offer an advantageous position for continuous achievement and the presence of a criminal mentor is pivotal for achievement over one's criminal career."

- Dastardly development; Mentors are crucial - for a career in crime (Improbable research column)

Related; Incentives for Delinquency

Worth Reading… It’s All Numbers

Links to a couple of articles and blog posts that discusses mathematics and statistics in the news;

Putting a Number on Happiness- The Numbers Guy.
More on the Happy Planet Index.

"The 200,000 people of Vanuatu -- a South Pacific nation composed of 83 islands, with an agricultural economy and corporate headquarters of file-sharing service Kazaa -- are the happiest on earth, according to a wave of recent articles….

The problem is, no one has asked Vanuatuans how happy they are. The ranking was based on extrapolating happiness levels from other countries."

I'm told that in Bhutan for the census they include a question on happiness. From a small sample of people I've met Bhutanese seem more happy than the one Vanuatuan I've met.

Cheney's One Percent Doctrine- John Allen Paulos

"Suskind describes the Cheney doctrine as follows: "Even if there's just a 1 percent chance of the unimaginable coming due, act as if it is a certainty. It's not about 'our analysis,' as Cheney said. It's about 'our response.' … Justified or not, fact-based or not, 'our response' is what matters. As to 'evidence,' the bar was set so low that the word itself almost didn't apply."

How a statistical formula won the war (via The Amateur Economist)

Lying with Statistics: Today's Example

Iraq Fact of the Day

“In theory, the Iraqi government buys fuel from neighboring countries at market rates and then resells it to Iraqis at cheaper subsidized prices. Subsidized diesel, for instance, was sold by the government for less than three cents a gallon for most of 2005, meaning that a 9,000-gallon tanker truck carried fuel officially worth around $250. But the same fuel was worth perhaps a dollar a gallon on the black market. With typical rates of $500 for protection money or police bribes and $800 to pay the truck driver, a smuggler could make at least $7,450 by bringing in fuel from Jordan, Syria or Turkey, according to Mr. Alak's report to the Oil Ministry.

After filling their trucks in neighboring countries, the drivers sell their load at a higher rate on the Iraqi black market. The beauty of the system from the smuggler's standpoint is that if arriving at an Iraqi fuel depot with an empty truck cannot be smoothed over with a bribe, the truck can be filled again elsewhere in Iraq at the cheap subsidized price….

Iraqi and American officials said they could not offer a total figure for what smuggling is costing the country every year, beyond asserting that it is in the billions.

But Oil Ministry data suggest that the total was $2.5 billion to $4 billion in 2005, said Yahia Said, a research fellow at the London School of Economics and director of the Iraq Revenue Watch at the Open Society Institute, a policy foundation.

Even at the low end, that would mean smuggling costs account for almost 10 percent of Iraq's gross domestic product, $29.3 billion in 2005.”

- Attacks on Iraq Oil Industry Aid Vast Smuggling Scheme (via Brad Setser)

See also Venezuela’s Non-Paradox of Value; In fact, gas in Venezuela is cheaper than mineral water, a seeming violation of the Paradox of Value.

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