Credit ratings steer financial markets and can make or break the future of entire nations. GDP drives our economies. Stock market indices flood our media and national debates. But what is behind these numbers? In How Numbers Rule the World: The Use and Abuse of Statistics in Global Politics Lorenzo Fioramonti (University of Pretoria) shows how numbers have been used as a means to reinforce the grip of markets on our social and political life, curtailing public participation and rational debate. His main concerns are economists and, perhaps even more, the people who ask questions of economists and statisticians. The sharpness of his argument is summed up when he says that “the complexity of social relations is lost through the cracks of mathematical algorithms”. This original, scholarly without ostentation, book is consequently largely about power, rather than numbers.
Watch Prof. Lorenzo Fioramonti’s a key note address at the annual conference of the Institute of Internal Auditors. Here also a radio interview with him, about the hidden agendas which may underpin the use of statistics, affecting the way we deal with poverty and sustainability