Given our usual way of doing economic analysis, the question of which institutions will most increase economic welfare rarely depends much on the exact values of the sorts of parameters social scientists and the media track with such enthusiasm and concern. (
This all fits the Austrian story that a business cycle is an accumulation of mistakes.
Douglas, few journals ever allow outsiders access to their referee reports.
Sister Y, yes firms will learn to fake number distributions to avoid detection, but that will still let them fake overall return numbers, and so we can look at such overall numbers to see overall faking levels.
Mark, higher cuckoldry levels say marriage is less succeeding as a commitment. We might then consider offering stronger commitment options.
They got fixed :-)
To summarize, we shouldn't track useless trends and should track useful trends. Got it.
What might a trend in cuckoldry tell you? How might that information be used? This is a real question - I really don't know how you would qualify a trend as good or bad (is more cuckoldry optimal? or less?), or how knowing about the trend would be useful. Marketing? Social engineering?
Also - what is the probability that firms figure out the obvious fact that they need to fake Benford-consistent data sets in order to achieve their deceptive aims, and are able to do so at low cost?
In general, tracking a variable as a proxy for deception will increasingly track lack of sophistication of relevant participants instead.
The Benford's Law thing is a lucky match - accounting's naive purpose (providing accurate information about transactions) happens to be its actual purpose, from the point of view of society (non-insiders); and there happens to be a way to measure whether data are generated by natural-ish processes or faked by insiders.
The purposes of the institutions of marriage, science, criminal justice, and sports are much more varied - both in the sense that different stakeholders conceive of them as having different purposes, and in the sense that they may have multiple purposes to the same stakeholder (including purposes at odds with the naive purpose of the institution). Of the example domains, accuracy for its own sake (as with accounting) only seems to be a strong purpose within science; in all other cases, accuracy seems secondary, only valued to the degree it is instrumental to various human social purposes. For instance, paternity confidence is only one of many values humans may derive from marriage; paternity is nice and measurable, and a naive observer might attribute a rise in paternity confusion to a breakdown of the institution of marriage. However, the time-tested methods that prevent paternity confusion (like niddah and purdah) preclude what most people see as important purposes of marriage (not to mention human flourishing in general).
That list is quite heterogeneous, a mix of objective and subjective, proxies and explicit cheating. I think the most promising item on the list is referee agreement because it is objective but probably not subject to fabrication as much as asking people whether they cheat. Though it is a very loose proxy and I'm not sure what I'd conclude from it. Do journals keep records of their referee reports? Or do they recognize them as a threat to the authority of the editors and destroy them?
They work for me.
These links are missing or broken: