Big, attention-grabbing numbers are frequently used in policy
debates and media reporting: "At least 200,000-250,000 people died
in the war in Bosnia." "There are three million child soldiers in
Africa." "More than 650,000 civilians have been killed as a result
of the U.S. occupation of Iraq." "Between 600,000 and 800,000 women
are trafficked across borders every year." "Money laundering
represents as much as 10 percent of global GDP." "Internet child
porn is a $20 billion-a-year industry."
Peter Andreas and Kelly M. Greenhill see only one problem: these
numbers are probably false. Their continued use and abuse reflect a
much larger and troubling pattern: policymakers and the media
naively or deliberately accept highly politicized and questionable
statistical claims about activities that are extremely difficult to
measure. As a result, we too often become trapped by these mythical
numbers, with perverse and counterproductive consequences.
This problem exists in myriad policy realms. But it is
particularly pronounced in statistics related to the politically
charged realms of global crime and conflict-numbers of people
killed in massacres and during genocides, the size of refugee
flows, the magnitude of the illicit global trade in drugs and human
beings, and so on. In Sex, Drugs, and Body Counts,
political scientists, anthropologists, sociologists, and policy
analysts critically examine the murky origins of some of these
statistics and trace their remarkable proliferation. They also
assess the standard metrics used to evaluate policy effectiveness
in combating problems such as terrorist financing, sex trafficking,
and the drug trade.
Subjects: Political Science
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