Tuesday, 23 April 2013

The economic importance of getting your sums right

You may have read the news of the 28 year old student (how long do youngsters need at school these days?) who discovered that two Harvard professors could not add up properly.

Rather an important issue, given that goverments appear to have decided to base their policies on their findings!

It brought to mind the scandalous mystery of the Badfort Rate Rebate - another case of figures just not adding up right.

I remember, one morning, getting a very agitated telephone call from the King of the Badgers.

"You must come over, at once, Uncle - it is inexplicable problem - it makes no sense at all. We need a great mind, such as your own, to find a solution!" he wept.

I arrived at his Palace to find him in a very distraught state.

"My economists have tried again and again, but the sum still works out the same - as you can see there is one blue ball still in the deficit column - they say that it means I owe Badfort one million pounds as a rate rebate !" he cried. "I do not know what we shall do - I suppose I shall have to sell the crown jewels!"

"I see...can you remember when the Badfort Crowd last paid any rates?" I inquired.

"Ummm, well, no actually? - 1964 I think?" he responded in a perplexed manner.

"Well then, unless they overpaid by a considerable amount, the calculations would seem somewhat unlikely" I replied "Let me have a look at this abacus your economists have been using"

I soon spotted a fundamental error in the economists calculations.

"It seems to have escaped their notice - but I deduce, from a quick perusal, that your abacus has 11 blue balls. Where did your economic professors acquire this device?" I asked.

"Fetch the economists!" demanded the King.

Two rather fusty old men were brought before the King. They were rather irate and irritable and one began a tirade against me:

 "Let me begin by saying that we are both highly qualified Harvard professors, we do not need the advice of some amateur elephant, with no economic qualifications, telling us how to conduct our business. We have no doubts of the facts - the King of the Badgers needs to pay the Badfort Crowd one million pounds and must adopt austere measures to do so..."

"Enough!" I interrupted "Where did you buy this abacus?"

"In the interests of austerity we did, of course, buy the cheapest model available. We bought it from a rather grumpy man in a sackcloth suit at the market - he assured us of its fine qualities!" retorted the other economist, with the long beard.

I picked the abacus up and observed the "Made in Badfort' sticker on the bottom.

Mystery solved.

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