Tigers, tigers everywhere
Suddenly, I am seeing tigers everywhere.
That might sound like the mad ramblings of somebody whose brain was frazzled by the recent sunny weather, but I assure you that I am really seeing tigers. Or, at least, I think I am.
The problem is, as the wonderful book The Tiger That Isn't makes clear, people often see tigers when they aren't really there.
The book is not, as you might expect, about the natural world, but rather about numbers and statistics. And it comes with an accurate recommendation from British comedian Rory Bremner — watch his TED talk here — that it "makes statistics far, far too interesting".
The "tigers that aren't" are the statistical patterns that people think they see, but that aren't really there — just as someone in a forest may wrongly believe they can see a pattern that is the stripes of a tiger.
For example, if a government or CEO comes into office and the economy/company starts to improve, the new incumbent will claim the credit, even though the improvement might well have happened anyway. Or think of the health benefits or negative effects of foods, drinks or medicines that are often under- or overestimated on the basis of dubious statistics.
(Bit of culture: one of England's most famous poems, by William Blake, is about a tiger in a forest at night. And even if you are not sure that it is a tiger that you are seeing, it is still probably a smart move to take evasive action.)
Anyway, I really have spied some tigers recently. First, there was British Prime Minister David Cameron, who faces the possibility of being kicked out of office in the general election on 7 May, claiming that he still has the stomach for the election battle and the job.
Cameron said of himself, "there's not just a tiger, there's a couple of elephants, a lion and a yeti in the tank". This was a reference to Esso's famous advertising slogan for its petrol, "put a tiger in your tank".
The next tiger I discovered related to the recently-published Brookings Institution-Financial Times economic indexes. These suggest that the world economy is in a "stop and go" recovery and is "at risk of stalling again", mainly as a result of a slowdown in the emerging economies.
The official name for these indexes is the "Tracking Indexes for the Global Economic Recovery" — or "TIGER" for short.
As I said, tigers, tigers everywhere. And they may indeed be a sign of danger — both for Britain (if Cameron gets re-elected) and the world economy.
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