Wed Feb 14th, 2007 at 06:06:00 AM EST
This article on "Social Security's Contribution to the Fertility Crisis" is an exceptional example of - lying with statistics I'd say, but this goes far beyond lying, into such realms of ideological foolishness and self-deceit, that words fail to describe, but it does have a high entertainment value... OK, the fact that it is from the von Mises Institute prepares the casual reader for the usual statistical acrobatics - but this... this ought to win some prize.
It isn't worth the time to debunk point by point (an easy but colossal task), but I'd like to single out a few things:
First of all, the two graphs presented as supporting empirical data: notice that the time-series for European countries stops at 1997 and tells a rather different story for, say, Ireland than the author suggests (and misses the recent demographic uptrend in "socialist" - by the authors standards - France which now has a higher fertility rate than the UK or Ireland - a fact that the author is silent about)...
Another hair-raising piece documenting how the high priests of the Economic Faith look at Europe and the world through coloured glasses. Promoted by DoDo
Furthermore the author notes that:
Looking at some concrete examples reveals the striking ability of social security to explain differences in fertility rates. The most obvious case is the one between developed and less developed countries: all developed countries have total fertility rates far below 3, whereas African and Middle-Eastern countries, where social security systems are practically non-existent, reach rates between 4 and 7
Looking at the most fertile countries demographically however, one cannot help but notice that with practically no exceptions, the fertility champions have no great need for a vast Social Security System since only a small portion of their population reaches retirement age. The fact that the countries in question are, well, agrarian, war-torn and underdeveloped for the most part, apparently isn't considered as relevant as their total expenditure on Pensions as a percentage of GDP...
Finally, the author amusingly states that:
Also within Europe, where social security benefits are dangerously generous, there are differences among countries. Some of the most generous schemes are found in Germany, France, and the Mediterranean countries -- as are the lowest fertility rates in the region
The case of France is, as we know (and the author could have found out by checking the Wikipedia list he references) the case of the highest fertility rates in Europe. As for the Mediterranean countries: In the very low fertility Mediterranean country (Greece) I'm living, the social security scheme is so generous that 1 in 4 pensioners live below the poverty line - and the number of destitute pensioners would be staggeringly high, were it not for exactly the family support networks that the author claims Social Security has made obsolete.
And BTW: Doesn't anyone still teach the "Correlation does not imply Causation" thing in statistics classes anymore?
PS: Apparently there's a paper on the issue of social security "explaining" low fertility rates. I give up.