Here’s a way to test Dr. Gelman’s theory that the rise of statistics has changed the world less than the hype suggests: certain uses of statistics are banned by law. Does the world look much different where thinking statistically is punished?
For example, the federal government forbids lenders from using race or ethnicity in deciding whether or not to approve a mortgage. To enforce this prohibition, it collects a vast quantity of data under the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act to empower community NGOs like the late ACORN to more easily sue lenders for disparate impact discrimination.
In turn, the government nurtured a business culture in which anything you observed just by watching about racial differences in creditworthiness was something you couldn’t discuss publicly, or in emails that could be subpoenaed.