The Tyranny of Metrics

The Tyranny of Metrics

Jerry Z. Muller

the fixation on quantifiable goals so central to metric fixation—though often implemented by politicians and policymakers who proclaim their devotion to capitalism—replicates many of the intrinsic faults of the Soviet system. Just as Soviet bloc planners set output targets for each factory to produce, so do bureaucrats set measurable performance targets for schools, hospitals, police forces, and corporations. And just as Soviet managers responded by producing shoddy goods that met the numerical targets set by their overlords, so do schools, police forces, and businesses find ways of fulfilling quotas with shoddy goods of their own: by graduating pupils with minimal skills, or downgrading grand theft to misdemeanor-level petty larceny, or opening dummy accounts for bank clients.

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