Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stats & dogs

You just have to read John Dillon's column from Sunday's Sunday Independent. He once (apparently) lived in America, but that doesn't stop him from bashing Americans. He doesn't bash all Americans because he has friends there - "admittedly, of the liberal, academic persuasion, but good Americans all, and lovers of their country".

Those liberal academic types are the good Americans. The rest? Well …
It is a well-known statistic that much more money is expended on pets in the US than on aid to the Third World. Now I personally don't have much of a problem with that. After all, what has the Third World ever done for us? But it does perhaps point up an order of priorities that Americans may have to think about over the next few years.
I didn't know that. It's a "well-known" statistic, though. Or at least "well-known" presumably amongst Dillons friends in academia. It's also false.

In 2006 Americans spent $38bn on their pets whereas public and private sums given to overseas aid added up to $59bn. And how might this compare with Irish or European pet spending or overseas aid? I don't know. Nor does Dillon, I'd wager.

To be honest, I'm not a pet guy. I don't own a pet and I've often marveled at the amount of money some people spend on their pets. But, that's their choice. Other people's pets are hardly a concern of mine.

People choose to spend their money on all sorts of things. Americans seem to like owning pets. Irish people spend a lot of money on alcohol. An awful lot. Which is worse? I don't care, but a comparison in spending is interesting. Although I haven't found great numbers, it does look like Irish people spend a lot more per capita on alcohol than Americans do on cats & dogs or whatever. (In 2005 Americans spent $319 per household on pets whereas in 1999 the average Irish household spent €1,675 on alcohol¹.)

None of this matters even a little other than that Dillon misused of some of this information to smear Americans as a particularly self-absorbed, wasteful people. It's a falsehood born of the prejudice and anti-Americanism commonly found in Europe and in the halls of American academia, where John Dillon finds his American friends.

¹ In 1999 the average American household spent $318 on alcohol.