About the only thing I remember from the statistics class I took in the '60s is the admonition from Mark Twain we were given concerning their use, "There are lies, damned lies and statistics."
Moving to recent times, Dennis Prager spoke yet another caution, "Our scientific age demands that we provide definitions, measurements, and statistics in order to be taken seriously. Yet most of the important things in life cannot be precisely defined or measured. Can we define or measure love, beauty, friendship or decency, for example?"
That brings us to today (5/28) when this paper reported, "Black drivers stopped more often in Missouri," which should have had a warning often cited by Thomas Sowell, "All too often when liberals cite statistics, they forget the statistician's warning that correlation is not causation."
The writer of this report obviously did not get the memo. First, more blacks were not stopped. Only 220,000 were vs. 940,000 whites, he used a statistical population or disparity index to come to his conclusion. Second, the inference is that some number of blacks were stopped even though they did nothing wrong. Otherwise, this would be a statement of no meaning, for if they were in fact committing some violation then the officer did exactly what they are supposed to do. Third, the statistics by race are being collected because someone in our Legislature somehow thought this was important to Missourians since they passed a law to that effect.
The obvious problem with such a law is how it affects the behavior of those who must enforce it, our law enforcement. Knowing the law and possible consequences to their employment and well-being, do they only do stops that keep them in statistically allowable percentages? If so, then we are actually interfering with them accomplishing their jobs, which would actually be a disservice to us. That, of course, is one of those important things you cannot measure as it is a personal judgment. That brings us right back to the danger of a report such as this as it has zero context.