FRED imports EU inflation data; stats nerds jump for joy, start charting things

French healthcare inflation vs US healthcare inflation! Beer inflation! Spanish inflation!

A secret weapon in the armoury of economics bloggers is the St Louis Federal Reserve's FRED, a tool which the institution offers to let people explore, manipulate and chart a wide variety of public data. On Wednesday, they added a further 6,000 data series on price levels liberated from Eurostat, the EU's impossible-to-use statistics database. Which means, naturally, that stats junkies have been charting inflation across Europe.

Slate's Matt Yglesias chooses to compare inflation in Germany against inflation in Spain, making the point that, while the two countries' changes in price levels have been very different, the ECB has to make monetary policy which fits them both:

Both series are index to 100 at 2005, but you can see clearly that Spain (red) has been experiencing higher inflation that Germany (blue) for some time now.

Business Insider's Joe Weisenthal goes with a comparison between French and US healthcare inflation, which handily demonstrates the ludicrous explosion in prices experienced by the latter. I decided to throw the UK into the comparison as well, which places us in the middle, but bear in mind that, with a single-payer system, consumer prices don't reflect the true cost of healthcare in the country.

For reasons known only to themselves, FRED also choose to break beer prices out into their own seperate category. Which allows me to present the good news of the day: the price of beer in Britain has remained largely unchanged over the last decade, even while everything else has risen by 30 per cent.

FRED: fun for all the (nerdy, stats-obsessed) family!

A cup of beer. Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

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You may call me a monster – but I'm glad that girl's lemonade stall got shut down

What's wrong with hard-working public servants enforcing perfectly sensible regulations?

Who could fail to be moved by the widely shared tears of a five year old whose innocent lemonade stall was brutally shut down by evil bureaucrats? What sort of monster would not have their heartstrings tugged by the plaintive “I've done a bad thing” from a girl whose father tells us she “just wanted to put a smile on people's faces”?

Well me, actually.

There are half a million cases of food poisoning each year in the UK, and one of the reasons we have stringent controls on who can sell food and drink, especially in unsealed containers, is to try to cut those figures down. And street stalls in general are regulated because we have a system of taxation, rights and responsibilities in this country which underpins our functioning society. Regulation is a social and economic good.

It’s also pretty unfair to criticise the hard-working public servants who acted in this case for doing the job they are no doubt underpaid to do. For the council to say “we expect our enforcement officers to show common sense” as they cancelled the fine is all very well, but I’m willing to bet they are given precious little leeway in their training when it comes to who gets fined and who doesn’t. If the council is handing out apologies, it likely should be issuing one to its officers as well.

“But these are decent folk being persecuted by a nanny state,” I hear you cry. And I stand impervious, I’m afraid. Because I’ve heard that line a lot recently and it’s beginning to grate.

It’s the same argument used against speed cameras and parking fines. How often have you heard those caught out proclaim themselves as “law-abiding citizens” and bemoan the infringement of their freedom? I have news for you: if you break the speed limit, or park illegally, or indeed break health and safety or trading regulations, you are not a law-abiding citizen. You’re actually the one who’s in the wrong.

And rarely is ignorance an excuse. Speed limits and parking regulations are posted clearly. In the case of the now famous lemonade stand, the father in question is even quoted as saying “I thought that they would just tell us to pack up and go home.” So he knew he was breaking the rules. He just didn’t think the consequences should apply to him.

A culture of entitlement, and a belief that rules are for other people but not us, is a disease gripping middle Britain. It is demonstrated in many different ways, from the driver telling the cyclist that she has no right to be on the road because she doesn’t pay road tax (I know), to the father holding up his daughter’s tears to get out of a fine.

I know, I’m a monster. But hooray for the enforcers, I say.

Duncan Hothersall is the editor of Labour Hame