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Boxplots to the rescue

The Crossover Law of Petropolitics


Truck and Barter attributed this chart to Thomas Friedman (he who proved the flat earth), who apparently made the following comment:

And what you basically see is this relationship where as the price of oil goes down the pace of freedom goes up in countries like Nigeria, Iran and Russia, and as the price of oil goes up the pace of freedom goes down, and the lines actually cross in all of these graphs

Sadly, his most amazing finding is the least interesting: given two lines drawn on two different axes, measured in two different units (one in dollars, the other in index numbers), the crossovers are merely an artifact created by the chart designer.  Just changing the scale, or shifting the lines vertically, will cause this amazing feature to immediately vanish.

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Come on!

This is a great figure - Tufte would be proud! Obviously there is no measure for freedom that one could correlate with the price of oil on a meaningful scale. nevertheless, the message comes across beautifully.


Michael Anderson

What a fabulous model! Perfectly straight lines fitted piecewise, that have equal but opposite slopes (on some unspecified scales), and which both turn the corner simultaneously. It's like action at a distance.

Ah, but what really MAKES this graph are the cherry-picked events scribbled in to suggest a cause-and-effect relationship. This PROVES the model to be correct!

Please stop showing these silly graphs--you're making stuff come out my nose.


This is a metaphor; all models are metaphors. But this is a silly one, and a particularly dangerous one at that, for it's a beautiful chart devoted to political propaganda. Not the stuff we should be seeing here, at least not without due comments.


Great Site - really useful information!o

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