Friday, November 9, 2012

Substance vs. 'the horse race'

There's been some blogospheric gnashing of teeth on the question of Nate Silver's accuracy vs. the innumerate pundits' stupidity. That's right, as far as it goes, but it overlooks the point that a relentless focus on prediction (however accurate) does contribute to the draining of substance from a political atmosphere already struggling to keep a small amount of substance in the discourse (sorry, mixed metaphor). 

As Bob Somerby says here (h/t), that's not Silver's fault, and good predictions are to be preferred to stupid predictions; nonetheless, it does happen to be the case that the more focus there is on prediction the less time there will be to focus on other things. Michael Gerson tried, I think, to make this point in a column quoted by Somerby in the linked post, but Gerson made the mistake of taking some overly broad swipes at political science in general, thereby earning a rebuke from Prof. John Sides.

P.s. Speaking of substance, I am very aware that I have not bestirred myself to say much of substance about the election results. I will be linking to something else soon by way of partial remedy. [added later]: Actually I won't be. Changed my mind.

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