Saturday, June 03, 2017

evidence, experts, discipline

takehome: lets end the numbers racket.

I'm sympathetic to having qualitative reasoned debate, but sometimes once can go look at a body of evidence (from experts, yes, really) that includes numbers, but the problem is that it takes time and discipline, and is simply not amenable to snappy soundbites in a bar room fight/real time debate/tv q&a.

one example of a source of information that I read through (but I doubt more than one in a thousand people bothered with) was the civil services 2012 review of the "balance of competences" of the EU - it gives not just figures, but also background and assumptions about figures, for the cost/benefit for every sector in the UK for being a member. In the geek world, we have a passive/aggressive shorthand for articles where people try to summarise a complex, nuanced and contextualized source of information with a "takehome" - we just put tl;dr ("too long; didn't read). here's the document that would have benefitted a lot of people to have read back last year:- 

when it comes to the current discussions, things that influence me are not that Corbyn wouldn't pull the trigger on nukes (how people get hung up on that, when we'd all be already dead by that point), or that May would have a hard time getting a decent deal from the EU for fishermen (all 3 that are left). I get more exercised by the fact that our kids face insane debt before they get their first job, they wont be able to get a decent place to live in the town in which they were bought up, their job prospects are so so despite good quality university qualifications; their pensions don't look too clever; if they get ill, their healthcare looks less dependable; their kids will have even more trouble getting a halfway decent school. etc etc. I get very cross when the academic economists in the USA that built the model that said we needed austerity (nearly 10 years ago) that was followed by much of Europe after the financial fiasco of 2008, admitted that they'd made an elementary mistake in an Excel spreadsheet, so the result was exactly the opposite of what they'd been flying around the world schmoozing politicans of all colour and odour. see

hmm so i like experts, but I also don't like experts......oh well..

really what it comes down to is adequate discipline being applied in the right context - a qualiative reasoned position in a face-to-face debate, but in a written position, careful citation of data, assumptions, context and so on....

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