Friday Thread: What makes for a reliable economic/political superpredictor?

To quote the blurb…

You don’t have to be a mystic to tell the future. Or at least that’s what political scientists would have you believe. But actually they’re not very good at it, as Tim Harford, the FT’s undercover economist, explains.

This is relevant how? Well, we know broadly that we cannot predict the future in any absolute terms.

Some people did warn the Celtic Tiger was going to come to a nasty end, but most did not, or did not want to look. You could argue that guilt over that is driving some pretty nasty and irrational behaviours.

Harford’s top three tips for good predictions are

  • Use feedback to learn/know what it is you can and what you cannot predict…
  • Work in teams in order to challenge each other…
  • Prove yourself wrong, try to see the other side of any argument probing their own side for weaknesses.


  • Practically_Family

    I have a handy one for NI which has yet to significantly fail me.
    I’m assured that when we come to vote on the status of the border that the usefulness of my “political ready reckoner” will be nixed, but this is it.

    1. Imagine how bufoonish stereotypes of the “typical NI Cafflik” & “typical NI Prawd” will view the issue at hand.
    2. Use census data to interpret the breakdown of how many Caffliks and how many Prawds are entitled to vote.

    3. Apply the bufoonish stereotypes to the entire population.
    4. ?????
    5. Profit

  • “Well, we know broadly that we cannot predict the future in any absolute terms.”

    …in this world, nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes. [Benjamin Franklin 1789]

    And, of course, economics is an art, not a science.

    Dr Andrew Baker, no relation [2009] – “…anybody who sits down and tells you, and looks you in the eye and says, ‘This is where we’ll be in twelve months’, I don’t think is being entirely truthful.”

  • Cue Bono

    “This time next year we’ll be millionaires.”

  • Seeing something as likely to happen, and understanding the consequences are two different things. It was straightforward enough to know that the South was heading for a property downturn, but then to think that in a global context with all the rest, would have required a huge understanding beyond even the basics of chaos theory.