I’m going to advocate a new, completely voluntary guideline for articles related to economics, budgets, any topic which requires numbers: They should include a reference to an unrelated statistic which is of comparable dimensions to the numbers within the article.
So I was reading about immigration, and statistics related to the upcoming election and its rhetoric, and was zoning out – as I believe many of us do. Not ignoring the numbers willfully, nor subconsciously; simply allowing the numbers to slosh around inside this little information bubble, not connected to the outside world at all.
Then I remembered a little factoid I had come across earlier in the week, one which I hope anyone who reads this will keep in mind: Americans spent $653 million on hot sauce last year (emphasized for memory aid, not for actual emphasis).
“Freakonomics” had an introduction with a great demonstration of this idea in action. After spending a few paragraphs discussing the various amounts of money spent during elections (at the time, at least), the section was rounded off with the (paraphrased) statement, “the total $1 billion spent on elections is equal to the amount spent on bubble gum last year”.
Doesn’t that add a little perspective?
Imagine being able to, at least somewhat, make the connection between isolated numbers and reality. It may sound silly – but picture being able to use trivia to get a handle on budget numbers, or to realize exactly how much/how little is being spent nationally on a very important issue. Imagine the average reader realizing, really internalizing, the average CEO salary – and doing so because they have an idea to connect to.
I’m going to leave the idea unfinished, and open for discussion; initial enthusiasm is being undermined by a need to stare at a wall and think about things. Talk amongst yourselves.
Feel free to suggest a hashtag. My best off-the-cuff idea was “#relativestats”, which doesn’t really pop.