The movie Moneyball brought to light something that has happens in a lot of areas of our culture: We make decisions all the time based on information that doesn’t really impact the result we are trying to get.
Two examples from today’s newspaper:
- Only 80,000 jobs added in October, but unemployment rate drops. The unemployment rate is accurately measuring an old standard while missing a cultural shift. Think about all the people you know in the past 5 years who have gone from gainfully employed to gainfully self-employed. The unemployment rate doesn’t measure people who are starting their own business. I think if we measured that you’d be encouraged by economic growth.
- Home building spent another year in the cellar. This is an economic indicator? New home starts? Sure, the population is growing a little bit every month and this implies new homes should be built to house them. Because that’s what I’d do, right? Wrong. People don’t get married and live in an apartment until they have a kid and build a house anymore. Our society isn’t that simple, maybe it never was. We should measure the homelessness rate instead. That’s what really matters.
Other examples from this weeks news:
- A lesbian couple at Patrick Henry High School was elected homecoming king & queen. I’m not even sure why this is a national news item. I know adults have an unhealthy fascination with adolescent sexuality and their interest in particularly peaked in the seemingly new phenomenon of LGBT students on campus. But this is measuring the wrong thing. Here’s a school that is safe and supportive of all of its students. Since when is that a bad thing? And what does this story have anything to do with education? Here’s a newsflash: Most people under 25 are completely over culture wars.
- Bank of America Eliminates Plan for $5 Debit Card Fee. Do people who work at banks think this has anything to do with $5? What they should be reporting is a trust index. The light bulb has gone off and people have realized that a $200,000 mortgage, some credit cards, some home improvement loans, some school loans, and a car payment is completely stupid financially even though banks says “good for your credit rating.” The real win was for credit unions. Measure the growth of credit unions vs. the decline of traditional banking and you’ll have an interesting index.
- NCAA stipend not a lean towards “pay-to-play.“ This is a classic cover-up to get you to measure the wrong thing. While you’re debating the ethics of giving college football and basketball players $2000 each to offset living expenses, you’ll never notice that ESPN is the quiet majority voice dictating the changing landscape of conference play. (And blocking a playoff in football. Did you know they own a lot of the bowl games?) They have you measuring the wrong thing.
What are some things in your life that are measured using an index that doesn’t really effect the outcome?