Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 39.djvu/461

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445
THE VALUE OF STATISTICS.

THE VALUE OF STATISTICS.
By Hon. CARROLL D. WRIGHT.

THE German historian Schlosser has said that history is statistics ever advancing, and statistics is stationary history. Looking beneath the words of Schlosser, one must conclude that he means that the constant accumulation of statistical data from period to period, or from epoch to epoch—that is, statistics ever in motion—creates history, history being made up of the ever-advancing events of life, which are shown through statistical methods, but that statistics of one epoch constitutes the permanent history thereof. The statistician, therefore, in the truest sense, writes history, and he writes it in the most crystallized form which can be adopted. He uses symbols, it is true, but with them he unlocks the facts of his period, so that they may be made plain to all students coming after him; he tells the story of our present state, that when the age we live in becomes the past, that story shall be found to exist in true and just proportions. The very word "statistics" indicates the soundness of the German writer's thought. The word is from the French statistique—from the Greek statos, meaning fixed, settled; statos being based on the stem sta, meaning to stand. Statistics, then, is used to illustrate fixed and settled conditions.

As a department of political science, statistics is used to classify, arrange, and discuss facts relating to a part or the whole of a country or people, or facts relating to classes of individuals or interests in different countries, and especially those facts which illustrate the physical, social, moral, intellectual, political, industrial, and economical condition or changes of condition of the people, in so far as such conditions may be indicated through numerical and tabular statements.

It is not a matter of much consequence whether statistics is a science or a method. English writers on statistics generally consider that it constitutes a method. Continental writers more generally insist upon its being denominated a science. The American opinion follows that of the Continent. It is true that statistical research can be called a scientific method of determining facts, and for studying various phenomena from which laws relating to life, production, distribution, consumption, etc., can be drawn; and the method must be considered scientific, because by it facts can be clearly stated, classified, and analyzed, elements which make science. We speak of the science of botany, because, for one reason, all the facts relating to botany can be classified; and so as to other departments of knowledge, classification or the lack of it determining the scientific or unscientific character of