Data Dilemmas, or How Does One draw lines?

How does one draw lines? Categorizing budget items is extremely difficult. In the US, it is widely acknowledged that around US$17 billion substantial portion of the Dept of Energy’s annual budget is “Defense Activities,” mostly researching and testing nuclear weapons. That spending could easily be classified as “defense” or “military” spending.

Closer to home are stories like this one from

China to quadruple agri-biotech spending

This money is not going directly to farmers or to rural factory workers or rural-born urban workers; however, it clearly demonstrates some increased level of commitment to agriculture. At the same time the money is going to high-tech universities and research centers and not the poor in the countryside.

For the moment, this is a hypothetical problem for me. Detailed budget breakdowns in China are not public, so I am avoid the problem of agonizing over each spending item. [Obviously I would prefer public budgets. Another complaint/suggestion on this vein is found in Monday’s edition of the Beijing News, Professor Cai Dingjian suggests improving the transparency of government finances.] Categorization is the most basic and essential portion of science, social or otherwise. Any comparative or statistical analysis rest on the measures and variables chosen. I have no non-cliche advice to the question in the title. How does one draw lines? Carefully, and remember where you drew them and why.

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