One More On Nate Silver

I don’t read Paul Krugman much because his column falls in the category of people-whose-politics-are-entirely-too-predictable, when it comes to financial or political analysis.  I have this weird aversion to reading (or listening to, for that matter) the thoughts of people about whom I can predict their stance even before the conversation begins.[1]

However, occasionally Krugman reminds me why he’s wicked smaht[2] and says what I was thinking before I even thought it (if that makes sense, which I’ll admit, it doesn’t.)

Krugman points to a National Review piece attacking Nate Silver – of Five-Thirty-Eight.com fame – for his bias toward Obama.  The gist of the National Review piece is that Silver’s methodology is flawed, intentionally, to support Silver’s Democratic agenda.

Krugman’s point, and I whole-heartedly agree, is that when good statistical analysis like Silver’s – and science for that matter – is attacked for political reasons, we lose something important.

Clearly, I’m a Nate Silver fan, because he’s cutting through the distracting media infotainment industry better than anyone right now.  So Krugman’s larger point resonates with me – that if you can discredit and reduce good data-driven analysis to a base level with the rest of the noise, you’ve given ignorance a fresh start.



[1] Diane Rehm is guilty of this.  I hated on Joseph Stiglitz’ book recently for that reason.  I can barely read Nicholas Kristoff’s poltical columns as a result.  While their Op-Eds can be useful, nearly every editorial in the Wall Street Journal is unreadable.  Unless they are unintentionally comedic, like this one.

[2] As we say in my hometown.

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One Reply to “One More On Nate Silver”

  1. I’m somewhat of a data geek myself. What some people seem to fail to understand is that a data geek’s primary passion is on the numbers and not on a specific position/agenda (right or left-leaning, in this case). Their credibility is based entirely on being correct as much as possible. If Nate manipulates his data to favor a specific position, he’s the first person to understand that he’s significantly reduced his chances of being correct.

    Data geeks tend to be very hierarchical in their thought process and the numbers are at the top of that hierarchy. It’s often hard for a non-data geek person to understand. Hence our battle between science and religion.

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I founded Bankers Anonymous because, as a recovering banker, I believe that the gap between the financial world as I know it and the public discourse about finance is more than just a problem for a family trying to balance their checkbook, or politicians trying to score points over next year’s budget – it is a weakness of our civil society. For reals. It’s also really fun for me.

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