Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Data Are Always Messy

A case of information responsibility, public-policy division…

“There’s a certain kind of academic that comes to Washington and can’t survive,” [former White House economic adviser Austan] Goolsbee said. “They’re the ones starting each sentence with ‘The economic model says …’ They are prone to silver-bullet-style answers, which demonstrate very sophisticated thinking about the model but very unsophisticated thinking about the real world.” The model may be missing a few things that are found in the real world—not least, the institutional and political obstacles that make some problems silver-bullet-proof. “If you’re going to be an academic who’s involved in the world of policy, you have to be involved in the world that exists,” Goolsbee told me. “I was always a data guy, not a theorist. Theorists can maintain total purity. The data are always messy.”

Devil’s Advocate - Magazine - The Atlantic

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