Monday, May 2, 2011

Peering into the Crystal Ball

I find the following very interesting. It reinforces what I learned from reading Dan Gardner's book Future Babble. And I was pleased to see that my favourite economist/political commentator Paul Krugman topped the list as "most accurate".

Here's the low-down on prognostication:
A Hamilton College class and their public policy professor analyzed the predicts of 26 pundits — including Sunday morning TV talkers — and used a scale of 1 to 5 to rate their accuracy. After Paul Krugman, the most accurate pundits were Maureen Dowd, former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), and former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. “The Bad” list includes Thomas Friedman, Clarence Page, and Bob Herbert.

Press release

Pundits predict no more accurately than a coin toss
Krugman tops, Cal Thomas bottom of accurate predictors, according to study at Hamilton College

CLINTON, N.Y. – Op-ed columnists and TV’s talking heads build followings by making bold, confident predictions about politics and the economy. But rarely are their predictions analyzed for accuracy.

Now, a class at Hamilton College led by public policy professor P. Gary Wyckoff has analyzed the predictions of 26 prognosticators between September 2007 and December 2008. Their findings? Anyone can make as accurate a prediction as most of them if just by flipping a coin.

Their research paper, “Are Talking Heads Blowing Hot Air? An Analysis of the Accuracy of Forecasts in the Political Media” will be presented via webcast on Monday, May 2, at 4:15 p.m., at The paper will also be available at that address at that time. Questions during the presentation can be posed via Twitter using #hcpundit.

The Hamilton students sampled the predictions of 26 individuals who wrote columns in major print media and who appeared on the three major Sunday news shows – Face the Nation, Meet the Press, and This Week – and evaluated the accuracy of 472 predictions made during the 16-month period. They used a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being “will not happen, 5 being “will absolutely happen”) to rate the accuracy of each, and then divided them into three categories: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.
Go read the whole article to get all the details. And, as a bonus, here is Paul Krugman's take on this glory and fame.

I've read most of Krugman's books and I've followed him on the NY Times since he got his column there. I remember going to the "unofficial" archive of Paul Krugman's writings and reading through most of the material. (Sadly that archive appears to have gone dead late in 2010 and is now offline.) All of Krugman's writing is superbly lucid and usually ends up teaching you something new. Krugman is a jewel. It is tragic that most of the powerful ignore him. His isn't the sociable schmoozing type and apparently that is a career killer if you want to have real political power or have the ear of those in power.

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