Jerry Z. Muller Book Discussion: "The Tyranny of Metrics"

Muller With Book

Jerry Z. Muller will visit NDIAS seminar on Tuesday, November 6, 2018 to discuss his recent book The Tyranny of Metrics with NDIAS fellows and invited guests.

"Today, organizations of all kinds are ruled by the belief that the path to success is quantifying human performance, publicizing the results, and dividing up the rewards based on the numbers. But in our zeal to instill the evaluation process with scientific rigor, we've gone from measuring performance to fixating on measuring itself. The result is a tyranny of metrics that threatens the quality of our lives and most important institutions. In this timely and powerful book, Jerry Muller uncovers the damage our obsession with metrics is causing—and shows how we can begin to fix the problem.

Filled with examples from education, medicine, business and finance, government, the police and military, and philanthropy and foreign aid, this brief and accessible book explains why the seemingly irresistible pressure to quantify performance distorts and distracts, whether by encouraging "gaming the stats" or "teaching to the test." That's because what can and does get measured is not always worth measuring, may not be what we really want to know, and may draw effort away from the things we care about. Along the way, we learn why paying for measured performance doesn't work, why surgical scorecards may increase deaths, and much more. But metrics can be good when used as a complement to—rather than a replacement for—judgment based on personal experience, and Muller also gives examples of when metrics have been beneficial.

Complete with a checklist of when and how to use metrics, The Tyranny of Metrics is an essential corrective to a rarely questioned trend that increasingly affects us all."

Jerry Z. Muller is professor of history at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. He is the author of six books, including Adam Smith in His Time and Ours; Conservatism: An Anthology of Social and Political Thought from David Hume to the Present; The Mind and the Market: Capitalism in Modern European Thought, and most recently The Tyranny of Metrics, published by Princeton University Press in February, 2018. His lecture series, “Thinking about Capitalism,” is available from The Great Courses. He publishes frequently on matters of public policy and international affairs in general interest magazines and newspapers, such as Foreign Affairs, The American Interest, and the Wall Street Journal, including “Capitalism and Inequality: What the Right and the Left Get Wrong” (Foreign Affairs, 2013).

Excerpt from the book, published by Princeton University Press (2018).