Thursday, April 05, 2007

Politics: Quality of Life.

During the ongoing hoo-hah over a National Health Care (read: "Socialized Medicine") plan, much is made over 'average life expectancy' as an indicator of Quality of Life when it really indicates nothing of the sort. It merely measures Quantity of Life. Sure, Germany (to take one f'rinstance) sports an average life expectancy of 78.7 years, while the typical American can only be expected to dodder along for 77.7, but tell me this: Would you rather spend 78.7 years with a cradle-to-grave Nanny, or 77.7 years telling the government to go piss up a rope? Yeah, thought so.


BobG said...

And if the government were to run Socialized Medicine as well as they run the VA, who is to say the life expectancy in this country won't go down?

B&N said...

Boy, this hits close to home, and let me tell you, you are right on with the nanny-statism with regards to the health care system over there.

Funny thing is, everyone seems to think it's the best thing since sliced bread. They haven't a clue about what it's actually costing them. The answer to that is 40 percent taxes.

TD said...

Average life expectancy is also a great example of the misuse of statistics. When you read about the average life expectancy of a certain place and time being extremely low, it doesn't necessarily mean that adults there all died young; it means the infant mortality rate was sky-high.

jqghtjbr... now that's getting ridiculous

global village idiot said...

Anyone who wants to know what "Universal Health Care" would look like in America only has to ask the first military dependent family they can find what they think of TRICARE.

Billy Beck said...

In the mid-1970's already, my best friend's grandfather reflected ruefully on his ninety-second year on the planet:

"A man's a fool to live as long as I have."

Barely in my 20's, I sensed that I'd just heard something really important.

My father always said, "As this social security thing goes on and as the push for socialized medicine mounts, pay attention to attitudes toward euthanasia."

He's going to be right about that, too, before this is over.

brbiswrite said...

TD, Tam

I don't think that our infant mortality rate is anything to brag about. Ours is 6.43/1000 births. The European Union's is 5.10/1000 births. Our socialist neighbor to the north is 4.69/1000 births.

Are two infant deaths/1000 births worth the privilege of telling the gov't to piss up a rope?

Here's my source

I've said it before. Universal health care may not be the best, but ours could stand a lot of improvement.

TD said...


I don't want to get into a big policy debate here on Tam's blog, so I'll just point out that you should listen to your son on things like this. He's usually fairly sharp :-)

All I was saying is that the arithmetic mean can be a deceptive measure of central tendency, and life expectancy calculations are a classic example of that.

If the stats say that life expectancy in a given time and place is 35 years, you'd probably be wrong to interpret that as saying "You will drop dead when you turn 35." What it probably means is, "If you make it past 5, you'll probably make it to 65."

TD said...

err, I ended up with too many "probablies" in there. One of these days I'll learn to proofread

Alcibiades said...

Gang-related deaths probably drag our life expectancy down a bit.

Will said...

Can't find the numbers right now, but, if the birth numbers of our illegal aliens are removed, the infant mortality rate looks better.
Problem is, when you play with numbers, you have to be real careful that the numbers are not PLAYED with.

brbiswrite said...


You don't need to tell me about PDB.

I don't want a policy debate either. As I understand statistics, average and mean are two very different concepts. I am confused because you seemed to use them interchangeably.

To me, average is adding up all the values, say the salaries of NBA players. Then one divides the total by the number of players. You get the average. The "mean" means half the salaries are higher and half are lower than the mean, the middle.

Anyway, I enjoy this, and most blogs I read.

TD said...


"Average" is the same thing as the "arithmetic mean" or just plain "mean" and is calculated like you said: add up the values and divide by the number of values.

What you called the mean is actually the median (the middle value in a set of values).

Ah, the fun of statistics! :-)

brbiswrite said...


I stand corrected. The term median I had lost somewhere.

comatus said...

The US is very good at "saving" radicdally premature infants. The ones that don't make it count as infant mortalities. In Europe, they leave them out on a rock and they don't count. Figures don't lie, but liars figure.