Innumeracy at The Guardian

This sort of thing really does irritate me. This isn\’t a typo, it\’s plain and simple innumeracy:

That\’s the trouble with charity: it doesn\’t all go to what might be regarded as good causes. As a proportion of GDP, the US gives most: 1.7% against Britain\’s 0.7%.

OK….charitable giving is around and about the same as the Overseas Aid budget….or at least that UN target for ODA that we\’re meant  to be striving to achieve.

GDP is around £1,400 billion. Call it roughly £10 billion then, somewhere around and about that, as the amount that Brits donate to charity each year.

Now, and no, I don\’t think I\’m being picky here, I would expect someone who is commenting upon public policy, even someone who is subbing an article on public policy, to have these rough sorts of numbers in their heads. At least to have some sort of idea of orders of magnitude. Giving to charity by Brits isn\’t £1 trillion and it\’s not £100 million. I wouldn\’t worry too much is someone thought it was £5 billion or £20 billion, but I would like them to be able to calculate, in their heads, to the right order of magnitude.

Given that they\’ve already given us the calculation that is.

But charities receive nearly a third of their £35m annual income from the government.


Do they think GDP is £3.5 billion or something? Or that Brits donate 0.0025% of GDP to charity?

How can anyone so ignorant of sums (and I include the writer, the subs, the editor here) be regarded as competent to appear in public? If someone butchered the English language so they\’d never get within a mile of the Guardian comment pages. So why are numbers treated differently?

3 thoughts on “Innumeracy at The Guardian”

  1. Ah, but when Wilby (who should really change his photo, surely he could find one where he doesn’t give away the sanctimonious little jerk hidden inside?) says: “That’s the trouble with charity: it doesn’t all go to what might be regarded as good causes.”, what he really means is that it doesn’t all go to what people who think like he does regard as good causes…

  2. He is of course right that charity doesn’t all go to good causes, though we might differ as to which causes are and are not good.
    And because we all differ on what causes are good governments should not forcibly extract monies from people to give to causes those individuals don’t believe in- that is, governments should give no tax money to charity. The more so as governments give tax money to charity so that the politicians can be portrayed as giving the money.
    In a perfect world charitable status should be abolished entirely as it is so often abused, and also entails increasing the tax burden on non-donors in order to compensate for the tax relief given to donors- unless someone has evidence that governments cut their other spending to compensate for the lost revenue.

  3. holistic life councillor

    Hey man, it’s not what the numbers are man it’s like what they mean.
    Don’t get so hung up about the numbers man chill out & feel the vibes.


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