Wednesday, June 23, 2010

On Stating The Obvious

Ian Welsh remarks on how easy it is to make good predictions these days:

Most of my analytical and predictive successes have been of the “this is bloody obvious” variety. A commenter said the other day that predicting that Dems would take losses in 2010 was an obvious prediction, but in early 2009 most of the rest of the progressive blogosphere was busy telling themselves and everyone else that the Republicans were such a disaster that at worst losses would be mild and Dems might even make gains.

Likewise, the housing bubble was obvious way out. All you had to do was look at a chart. It didn’t take being a genius economist (which I’m not). It didn’t take fancy math. All it took was the ability to say “hey, that looks exactly like a bubble, and all bubbles burst”. All you had to do was listen for the fools saying “it’s different this time”.

It’s almost never different this time. Human nature does not change. Things which didn’t work in the past are unlikely to work now. Incompetent people, which is to say people with a track record of screwing up, are not likely to suddenly become competent. And if you can’t imagine what it’s like to be someone you despise, you can’t predict what they’ll do.

The Bloody Obviousness Of Most Good Predictions

And yes, it really is that simple sometimes. I added that italic emphasis, because in many cases that's what I hear when I state the obvious conclusion to whatever plan or action we're discussing: "This time isn't like the others." People usually think that they're special; they're smarter, better informed, or just plain cooler than the folks who screwed up the same way before. When I hear such talk, I usually have a Blowed Up moment. I have so many of those these days that I sometimes think I should get a cell phone.

I often refer to what I'm doing here as stating the obvious. The obvious often needs to be stated out loud, in my experience. People will ignore it otherwise. If you bring it up, people at least have to consider it, and the smarter ones actually will look at you and say "I hadn't thought of that."

No comments: