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Hagbard's law or why the gov really isn't "lying"

Discussion in 'Survival Reading Room' started by Tango3, Dec 30, 2009.

  1. Tango3

    Tango3 Aimless wanderer

    more interesting reading from the archdruids'blog:
    Gov't numbers look rosier every year because of the dynamics of human communication.( i.e. "Hagbards law") :)

    Nowadays nothing so crude is involved. The president – any president, of any party, or for that matter of any nation – simply expresses a hope that next quarter’s numbers will improve; the head of the bureau in question takes that instruction back to the office; it goes down the bureaucratic food chain, and some anonymous staffer figures out a plausible reason why the way of calculating the numbers should be changed; the new formula is approved by the bureau’s tame academics, rubberstamped by the appropriate officials, and goes into effect in time to boost the next quarter’s numbers. It’s all very professional and aboveboard, and the only sign that anything untoward is involved is that for the last thirty years, every new formulation of official economic statistics has made the numbers look rosier than the one it replaced.

    It’s entirely possible, for that matter, that a good many of those changes took place without any overt pressure from the top at all. Hagbard’s Law is a massive factor in modern societies. Coined by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in their tremendous satire Illuminatus!, Hagbard’s Law states that information can only be communicated between equals, since in a hierarchy, those in inferior positions face very strong incentives to tell their superiors what the superiors want to hear rather than ‘fessing up to the truth. The more levels of hierarchy between the people who gather information and the ones who make decisions, the more communication tends to be blocked by Hagbard’s Law; in today’s governments and corporations, the disconnect between the reality visible on the ground and the numbers viewed from the top of the pyramid is as often as not total.

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