Friday, May 22, 2009

George Will: innumerate

I'm late to this, but Matt Yglesias called out George Will for throwing out ".01 percent" as a ridiculously high proportion of Americans to bike to work.

The actual fraction of Americans who bike to work is .4 percent. Which is a lot bigger.

You know, if someone just makes up words and/or applies random words to a situation without considering their meaning, that person is either illiterate or lying or both. And not even the socially acceptable lying or illiteracy. If you wrote a column for a newspaper and misdescribed a situation because you didn't know what the words you used meant, or because you picked words at random that you thought sounded vaguely like what you were reporting, you wouldn't keep a job writing columns for very long. Because literacy is a prerequisite for the job.

Shouldn't innumeracy preclude you from spouting numbers? George Will should perhaps leave the percentages to the staff of the local middle school newsletter, who are more qualified to handle them.

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