My Dad always used to say to me, “Figures lie, and liars figure.” I never really understood at the time what it meant. As I got older, it became quite clear. People will use numbers in the way that most benefits them. I have often cited cigarette smoking statistics as a perfect example. Now, I am in no way endorsing smoking, as I have quit myself. I am also fully aware that cigarettes can kill you. My issue has always been with how likely it is to kill you.
Assuming 25 years is considered a generation, take this example. In 1962, there were approximately 70 million smokers in the United States. In ’87, it was 80 million, and today, it is down to 60 million. Presuming that half of the smokers in ’87, smoked in ’62, and presuming the same for todays smokers, that means there have been about 140 million smokers in the U.S. in the last 50 years. This number is likely higher, but a higher number would only make my point more valid. I wanted it to be hard on me.
So here it is: About a half million people die every year from cigarette related deaths. Over 50 years, that’s 25 million people. Some of the 25 million aren’t even smokers, because second hand smoke is bad, too. Even if 24.5 million of the deaths are actual smokers, that equates to about 16%. This means that 84% of smokers will never die from cigarette related death. Yet, the people against smoking will merely cite the fact that 500,000 people a year die from cigarettes, because they know that’s a big number and it gets attention. It’s a manipulation of the numbers. I still think it is bad for you, I just don’t agree that it’s as bad as they want you to believe it is. Hell, 300,000 people per year die of issues related to obesity. You can die from eating too much food. It’s all about moderation………..and genetics.
Now, that’s not what I really wanted to talk about, but I just wanted to give an example of getting figures to say what you want them to say. I really wanted this blog to be about how large numbers can make people believe things that are not true. Case in point, the One Million Moms boycott of J.C. Penney choosing to use Ellen DeGeneres as their new spokeswoman. They actually believe that having one million members gives them some real influence. NEWSFLASH: There are 360 million other people in this country. You make up less than .3% of the population, you dumbasses. Unfortunately, in this instance, they are blinded by the fact that they think one million people is a big deal, because it’s a big number.
This way of thinking is also what is driving the gay marriage controversy. I would concede that there are more than one million people in this country against it, which is what is causing the delay in legalization. However, there are FAR more people in this country that are in favor of gay marriage, and all other gay rights, for that matter. Yet, whenever a large group of people think one way, they also think that makes them the majority. It’s ludicrous. Having a large group of morons that think like you, does NOT mean that the rest of us do. I guess in this instance, figures confuse, and the confused figure.
These examples only highlight the naivete of people. I “believe” that taxing the rich more, is a good idea. However, I “know” that the amount of money it would generate is hardly big enough in comparison to the actual debt. Therefore, it’s hardly the solution. See, isn’t that easy to figure out? I think so.
Now, grab a butt, head to J.C. Penney, support gay marriage, and enjoy your life. 😉