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Statistics and Politics in a "Knowledge Society"

  • Enrico Giovannini

Several studies have analysed the characteristics of the knowledge society, as well as its impact on the production of "official" statistics. In this paper we will not enter into this debate, but we will try to analyse the role of statistics in building a knowledge society and improving the democratic control of policy makers. This issue is especially important because the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) dramatically reduced the cost of producing statistics: therefore, nowadays a huge number of organisations is able to produce statistical figures and indices, frequently picked up by media, just for advocacy purposes and this contributes to create a sense of "confusion" often reported by citizens about the real state of the economy and of the society. This "noise" does not help at all citizens to make the best possible choices, including the electoral ones, and this is not a good thing for the functioning of economic markets and the democracy. The paper initially analyses the relationships between information, expectations and economic theory, as well as the nexus between information and political sciences. In the second part, various approaches to the measurement of societal progress and the role of "key indicators" are presented and analysed. Moreover, theoretical models and empirical evidence about what citizens know on societal progress are discussed. Finally, the OECD project on the measurement of societal progress is presented. Plusieurs études ont analysé les caractéristiques d’une société de la connaissance, ainsi que son impact sur la production de statistiques « officielles ». Nous n’entrerons pas dans ce débat dans ce document, mais nous essayerons d’analyser le rôle des statistiques dans la construction d’une société de la connaissance et l’amélioration du contrôle démocratique des décideurs politiques. Cette question est particulièrement importante parce que le développement des technologies de l’information et de la communication (TIC) a nettement réduit le coût de la production des statistiques : par conséquent, un grand nombre d’organisations sont maintenant capables de produire des chiffres et des indices, fréquemment repris par les médias, dans le but de sensibiliser ce qui contribue à créer un sentiment de « confusion » souvent rapporté par les citoyens à propos de l’état réel de l’économie et de la société. Ce « bruit » n’aide pas les citoyens à faire les meilleurs choix possibles, y compris les choix électoraux, et ce n’est pas une bonne chose pour le fonctionnement des marchés économiques et de la démocratie. Cet article examine initialement les rapports entre l?information, les attentes et la théorie économique, ainsi que la connexion entre l'information et les sciences politiques. Dans la deuxième partie, diverses approches de la mesure du progrès sociétal et du rôle des « indicateurs clés » sont présentées et analysées. De plus, les modèles théoriques et l'évidence empirique au sujet de ce que les citoyens connaissent du progrès sociétal sont discutés. En conclusion, le projet de l'OCDE sur la mesure du progrès sociétal est présenté.

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Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Statistics Working Papers with number 2007/2.

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Date of creation: 29 May 2007
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Handle: RePEc:oec:stdaaa:2007/2-en
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  1. Christopher D. Carroll, 2003. "Macroeconomic Expectations Of Households And Professional Forecasters," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 118(1), pages 269-298, February.
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  7. Lucas, Robert E, Jr, 1975. "An Equilibrium Model of the Business Cycle," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 83(6), pages 1113-44, December.
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