Imagine being a dedicated public servant. You got fired for accurate statistics. Well, you figure, you can make a living with your skill. But then some nasty woman destroys your life with lawsuits to shut you up because she doesn't want people to know the truth.
In 2007, the government of Argentina fired Graciela Bevacqua and other statisticians who were collecting its price statistics and inflation estimates. Since that time, large and disturbing — even shocking — discrepancies have developed between the official inflation estimates (roughly 10% a year) and privately generated estimates announced by Bevacqua and others (roughly 25% a year).
Rather than publishing and defending its methodology for measuring inflation, the Argentine government has chosen to attack the messengers. It has instituted serious administrative fines and criminal charges against Bevacqua and others. The official explanation is that the government was responding to wholesale fruit and vegetable vendors claiming that their sales had decreased, a decline in demand the government said was caused by publication of the private inflation estimates.
It is hard to understand how a change in the demand for fruits and vegetables could result in a charge against the statisticians. While the idea that announcements by private statisticians can move markets is flattering, it is much more likely that the actual increase in the prices of produce, reflected in the inflation rate, led to the decrease in demand.
The fines imposed on the statisticians are substantial, on the order of $100,000 to $150,000. They have yet to be adjudicated by a court. The criminal charges are even more serious. They are based on the proposition that announcing private inflation estimates endangered Argentine national security.