New Internationalist

Lies, damned lies and statistics

I just read this.

The money needed to give everyone in the world adequate food, water, housing, education, and health care is estimated to be about £50 billion a year. That may seem like a huge sum, but the world’s armed forces spend about the same amount on weapons each month.

I’ve always been amazed at such statistics. Stark, simple, shocking. And yet, no-one seems to take any notice of them. I mean, how can things go on as they are, the appalling injustice, poverty, disease and despair, when we KNOW there is more than enough money to put it all right? We KNOW because it says so. There it is in black and white!

Now some amongst you, the cynics, might say… ah, but what if that statistic is wrong? Remember Disraeli’s damning phrase: ‘There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.’

Okay, what if it is wrong? What if it’s out by a billion or two? For now, let’s put to one side the amount of money spent on arms each year (a crime in itself). How much money did the Bush Administration shell out to save the ailing US banks? 700 billion dollars! Yes, 700 billion dollars! So, what’s a few billion here or there when your children are dying unnecessarily?

It’s a personal view, this. But as far as I’m concerned our rulers have blown it. Forever. In future, how will they ever be able to say that there is not enough money available to give everyone in the world adequate food, water, housing, education, and health care? Oh, they’ll try. They’ll lie and cheat and do anything to keep their blood-soaked hands on power. But their lying and cheating has been exposed. As we knew all along, the money is there. And as we also knew all along, the will is not. 

Simple as that. SCIAF%20Arms%20Factsheet%20-%20.pdf

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  1. #1 Phillip Smith 20 Jan 09

    £50 billion? It's a small sum, really! If the banks are in jeopardy -- here's £50 billion. If the businesses are having problems -- here's £50 billion. And, as you point out, if the military needs it -- here's £50 billion and more!

    But if people need it -- for housing and food -- the money is nowhere to be found.

    Thanks for the reminder. :-)

  2. #2 ciderpunx 21 Jan 09

    > If the businesses are having problems -- here's £50 billion.

    An example of ’trickle up’ economics? Except its less trickling than gushing.

  3. #3 Alan Saly 24 Jan 09

    Aye, there's the rub. Much more complicated than you admit. First off, would we do any better if we had the rulers' power, money, and authority? Reformers often gained the upper hand, and then things devolved into a killing spree. But your heart is in the right place, and I completely agree with you.

    It's so tempting to believe that we, rational beings as we are, can guarantee the greatest good for the greatest number, and can put an end to unnecessary suffering. I am reminded of HG Wells' ’Things to Come,’ in which a technocratic elite takes charge of the whole world for the greater good. Would that it were possible.

    Yet on the ground here in 2009, we must struggle to set things right. People of good will must confront militarization and corporations in thrall to the profit motive. And we are doing that in many ways. But many don't have the courage to change their assumptions about how they must earn their livelihood, where they invest, and who they must kow-tow to in order to maintain their status and place in the pecking order. That's why we must create new societies and new ways to empower each other.

    Further, we must be on a path of spiritual search and inner liberation. How else to address the baffling fact that there is so much in-fighting within the movement for peace, justice and freedom? Some guidelines can be found here:

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About the author

Alan Hughes a New Internationalist contributor

Alan Hughes was a graphic artist at New Internationalist. He retired in 2014. He is a life-long socialist and trade unionist and is currently involved in the Keep Our NHS Public Campaign. He is passionate about The Beatles and has supported Aston Villa FC for over 50 years. He lives in Oxford with his daughter.

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