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Shadow statistics: why government statistics are lies

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Reporting from: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The idea of a census has been around for thousands of years. The Babylonians are believed to have taken the first government census over six thousand years ago.

As the years went by, these censuses quickly went from rationing food amongst the tribe to being tools for the ruling class to exact their pound of flesh from the productivity of their empire.

But ancient censuses were also fraught with problems, many stemming from the thinking of the day. It’s well-known that many government refused to count women, or minorities, or non-landowners. In one ancient Greek census, the government counted how many large rocks a man owned.

The state has used the census as a tool to spy on and punish its people going back forever.

Here in Vietnam, the government has its own issues with a fair census.

Walking around Ho Chi Minh City, you’ll quickly get the idea that this place is packed full of people. As I wrote from Hanoi, just learning to cross the street is an adventure.

I’ve read travel experts who come here seeking peace and quiet, then get upset when they realize it’s a large city active 24/7. Near my home in the central city, there’s plenty of activity even late at night, despite it being one of the less populated areas.

The official government statistics on population, suggesting 7.5 million people reside in Ho Chi Minh City, seem low. There have to be more people here than that.

And as it turns out, I’m right.

When Northern Vietnamese forces won the war, the Southern military forces were sent to re-education camps. Hard labor like cleaning up land mines ensued. Low-ranking recruits who “cooperated” with the victors got low-end jobs in the new administration. Others were thrown back into society with no papers, no legal status, and no ability to work.

To this day, many of the ARVN and their descendants are not counted in government statistics. According to one expert I spoke to, the real population of Ho Chi Minh City could be as high as sixteen million – double that of the “official” government statistics.

Like countless predecessors, this government distorts the numbers for its own political expediency. And as few westerners realize, their governments are doing the exact same thing with their economic data.

Remember the economic boom years of the 2000s? Not so, say shadow economic statistics. GDP growth was actually down for almost the entire decade, save part of 2004. You wouldn’t have guessed thanks to the irrational exuberance, though. It was all propped up by the government throwing themselves a parade for what a great job they were doing.

Until they weren’t. Then it was capitalism’s fault.

In The Land of the Free, bureaucrats completely changed the methods for calculating government statistics in the 1980s. The economy was in the tank then, too, and the government needed cover from the finger-pointing coming its way.

Why try and actually solve the problem when you can just reconfigure the numbers to make yourself look good? I suspect deep down, many government statists realize they have no solutions and no power to do anything. But that won’t stop them from desperately clinging to power.

Awhile back, they reasoned, “an unemployed person isn’t necessarily unemployed. Maybe he’s just stopped looking for work. HE shouldn’t count.” And thus began the idea of masking various government statistics under layers of red tape.

You believe Obama and the government’s contention that US unemployment is 7.6%? Think again. We all know it’s way higher. And the government is prepared with its typical propaganda.

They’ll tell you 7.6% is only ONE way of measuring unemployment. Oh, they’ve got other ways. If you force them, they’ll tell you the OTHER way to measure it shows 14.3% unemployment. But guess which government statistics they trumpet to the media and splash across newspaper headlines?

You guessed it. The ones that make them look good.

Even the broadest unemployment statistics are inaccurate, however. Shadow stats indicate true unemployment in the US is really closer to 23%. Ouch. No wonder four out of five Americans are just a hop, skip, and a jump away from poverty. That’s right, poverty.

Government statistics want you to believe inflation is a manageable 2%. Don’t be concerned that the money-printing machines are running at full blast to prop up the economy… which is growing, by the way. Some statistics suggest inflation is easily 5%, and could be as high as 10%. But no government agency would ever want to admit that. The American people might actually wise up and realize they’re already on the verge of living in Argentina or the New Soviet Union.

Wanting to prop up its failing dollar, Federal Reserve and US government statistics will paint a rosy picture about their reserve currency. However, shadow stats show the weighted average of the dollar compared to other major currencies is roughly 10% different than they claim.

Oh, and remember those GDP growth statistics? While politicians are patting themselves on the back for growing the US economy by 2% this year, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

The truth is the economy is still achieving NEGATIVE growth. In their haste to lie to you, the government added several percent to the figure for good measure.

Every year, you have the distinct privilege of sending a vast chunk of your earnings to a government that uses that money to manipulate the numbers that show their failure. They use your own money to lie to you. God bless Big Government.

I don’t know about you, but all of this manipulation of government statistics makes me almost long for the days when some Greek census officer would come to my house and demand to count how many rocks I had lying around.


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