And now for something completely different

We take a respite from our darkness-cursing for a bit of candle-lighting.

Suppose you were convinced that the susceptibility of the voting public to statistical b.s. (as for example the claim that “faith-based” prison programs have been shown to reduce recidivism) constituted a major threat to the viability of republican government in an increasingly complex and data-drenched world. And suppose further that you wanted to do something about it. What might that be?

Here’s a suggestion: buy two copies of What the Numbers Say, one for you and one to give away.

The book is a joy, written in a breezy style and with a wealth of examples. It’s build around two simple ideas: quantitative reasoning is essential, and it doesn’t have much to do with “math” either in the axiom-theorem-proof sense or the memorize-this-formula sense. What Niederman and Boyum call “quantitative reasoning” is just applying common sense to situations where quantity — “more” or “less” — matters.

Full disclosure: David Boyum is a long-time friend and sometime collaborator.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: