Department of depressing government data series

By Felix Salmon
August 12, 2009
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When I visited Argentina in early 2003, the finance ministry gave me, as finance ministries worldwide are wont to do, a printed-out PowerPoint presentation of how wonderfully the economy was going. One slide did stand out, however — the one entitled “Social protest events during 2002″, showing how “crowd concentrations, mobilizations, blocking highways and downtown streets, partial and total strikes, takeover of establishments, and so on” (seriously, that’s what it said) had dropped from over 2,000 a month in the first four months of the year to a mere 847 in December.

Still, it’s understandable that there would be someone in the government charged with tallying such depressing statistics. It seems that the US, too, has such a person:

A new book, “In The President’s Secret Service,” says Obama receives as many as 30 death threats a day, 400 per cent more than those made against his predecessor, George W. Bush.

I would be fascinated to see this data series charted over time, assuming it really exists. I wonder if there’s any correlation between number of death threats, on the one hand, and the probability of a president being assassinated, on the other.

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