In Viewing Data, Consider the Source

Originally published in The Boston Globe

April 17, 2011
Ulrich F.W Ernst (Letter to the Editor, Mattapoisett, MA)

Edward L. Glaeser cites the results of the Global Competitiveness Report as evidence that rebuilding and strengthening our nation’s infrastructure should take a back seat to balancing the budget and eliminating public waste. The report’s rankings are correct, but they are not the result of some independent assessment. Rather, they largely reflect the subjective views of business executives (on average, fewer than 100 per country) who respond to the World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey. The business representatives express their opinion of the country’s performance on a scale of 1 (bad) to 7 (world class), and what the respondents see as world class differs from country to country.
One might expect that the propaganda barrage from the US Chamber of Commerce has something to do with our country’s low ranking for balancing the budget.
I have no problem with the ultimate point that infrastructure spending should get smarter before it gets bigger. But it needs a better empirical base than rankings on the Global Competitiveness Report.
Ulrich F.W Ernst
Mattapoisett

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