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Prediction is the synthesis of past and present in an attempt to foretell the future.

The Truth About Economic Forecasting

In our view, creation is not the ultimate phenomenon of the world. Nature creates forms and so do we. The problem is to surmise the eventual purpose, impact, and use of creation. It is the synthesis or outcome of bringing together the results of creation that we need to predict.

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FAQ Policy. Despite the sorrowful record, most economists remain die-hard advocates of forecasting. Their greatest or only talent is for speaking authoritatively. Though that day will never arrive, economic forecasting remains an integral part of the economics mainstream. Whether one uses a ruler to extend an economic trend into the future, or a sophisticated econometric model with dozens of equations, the problem is still the same: there are no constant relations in human affairs.

Economics, unlike the natural sciences, deals with human actions, plans, motivations, preferences, and so on, none of which can be quantified.

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Even if it were possible to quantify these things, changing tastes and all the factors that affect tastes would make the data almost instantaneously useless to the forecaster. Economic statistics i.

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Some economic forecasters like to argue that economic forecasting is not unlike predicting the weather and should also be equally difficult. Not only is the nature of these two problems entirely different, but one can reasonably expect that as scientific methods become more sophisticated, weather prediction could theoretically approach perfection. This is because there are constant relations among physical and chemical events.


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By experimenting in the laboratory, the natural scientist can know what these relations are with a high degree of precision. However, human society is not a controlled laboratory. Forecasters try to get around this problem by linking events in historical chains, and randomly guessing that if one variable reoccurs, then the others will necessarily follow.

But this is a sophisticated version of the logical fallacy, post hoc ergo propter hoc after this, therefore, because of this. This has led major forecasters to seriously study astrological patterns and to build mathematical models that correlate weather patterns with business cycles. Political matters always involve the competitive give and take that allows us to seek resolutions to divisive issues by confronting opportunities for compromise against the backdrop of the threat or reality of coercion.

That, as it happens, is the essence of business competition, litigation, legislation, regulation, and even war and peace. It is at the core of all social competition, whether organized along ethnic, religious, geographic, or occupational lines. Politics is the primary source of interference in or the breakdown of market competition as well sometimes as a corrective for market imperfections as reflected in an idealized, apolitical, approach to economics.

In short, politics is a perfect domain in which to investigate Edward O.

Political prediction tests the efficacy of the scientific method as a means to study political issues. As such, political prediction is crucial both as a means to test theory and to the extent that the tests prove successful, to facilitate the formulation and implementation of public policy based on logic and evidence rather than opinion, partisanship or ideology. Just as physics provides a way to anticipate the location of heavenly bodies at pretty much any time in the past, present or future, so too ought the rigours of logical reasoning and evidence provide the means to anticipate political outcomes, whether over small questions like elections, or big questions, like the paths to war or peace.

In an effort to establish that this can be done, I have spent a significant part of my research and consulting life over the past three decades developing mathematical models of strategic interaction — game theory models — and applying them to difficult policy questions before outcomes were known. Mindful that much of the study of politics has long been grounded in normative and judgemental investigations rather than in applications of mathematical reasoning and systematic evaluations of evidence, I decided early on to dare to be embarrassed by publishing predictions in peer reviewed journals and books before the actual issue outcomes were known.

The idea was twofold: 1 to establish a track record against which others could decide whether the particular models I developed proved more reliable than alternative approaches in anticipating important events; and 2 to challenge those invested in other methods, such as area studies, statistical analysis, case histories and the like, to also dare to be embarrassed by testing the efficacy of their methods before they knew the outcomes of the issues that interested them.

The United States intelligence community alone has used the method in more than a thousand cases. Hundreds of additional political predictions based on my particular game theory method, some done by me and many done by other researchers, have been published in journal articles and books, again with a comparable accuracy rate. And journalists likewise indicate an equivalent accuracy rate while private consulting clients continue to use the method year in and year out, attributing an equally high accuracy rate to the game theoretic model.

Literally hundreds of other people have used and are using the same model available for classroom use on-line: www. The model itself solves for Bayesian Perfect Equilibrium with four different sources of uncertainty.

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Political Scientists Are Lousy Forecasters - The New York Times

And what does it take to anticipate the detailed unfolding of events? It just requires quantified inputs on four variables for each stakeholder with an interest in trying to influence the outcome of the issue at stake in the game: 1 what does each player say he or she wants as the outcome; 2 how high a priority salience does each player attribute to the issue in question relative to other issues on their agenda; 3 how stubborn or flexible does each stakeholder claim to be about their issue position; and 4 how much persuasive clout or influence could each stakeholder exert if he or she tried as hard as possible knowing from their salience just how hard they will try initially.

I report these results not so much out of pride in the effectiveness of a particular model at forecasting political outcomes — there are other models that are competitive in their accuracy, albeit on different, more cooperatively-oriented, issues — but rather to open minds to the realization that political prediction is not pie in the sky; it is here, it is being done successfully; and it relies on mathematical reasoning and the scientific method and not star gazing or the dissection of entrails.