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April 11, 2018



«the over-hyped discovery of weak correlations that don’t hold out-of-sample.»

But that's a description of much empirical research in Economics!
Isn't that anti-science? :-)

Bill Posters

The phrase missing from this review is "juking the stats" (see The Wire). Most stats can be juked. I don't say all stats are useless, but you need some healthy skepticism.

Tomorrow thousands of people will go to work and spend a large part of the day juking some stats. Mostly, if they didn't do it we would all be worse off.

Mike W

'The belief that people and organizations can be managed and controlled by simple measures imposed from above is one of the main foundations of bosses claim to power. In showing us that this belief is at least sometimes wrong, Muller has written a much more political book than many readers might think.'

I should read the book. Your idea is very good. It did puzzle me as a youngster, that this aspect of After Virtue: its engagement with philosophy of science (social science) was of great importance, but was only being read in the history department, as far as I could see (The Enlightenment Project and all that).

I wondered how you you could develop this at the time. What research programme could follow from his work? Your idea from Muller seems one good answer in this regard. Back then one sociologist that listened to my 'summary' of this element of After Virtue said, 'surely Max Weber had already said all this'.


A bit like certain well known economists today saying that MMT is 'just' dressed up Keynesian 'fiscalism', which we have been discussing for years old chap.


this is the Lies of Accountancy. You can't measure the things that are important, so you measure the things you can measure and pretend they are important.


"juking the stats" Yes, but what to make of an organisation that is so rubbish they can't even fiddle the numbers?

Bower birds. they collect all sorts of shiny things like bottle tops into piles. The female mate with the birds with the best piles. The actual collection of these piles has no biological purpose, but there needs to be a competition, so in the absence of anything more biologically meaningful collecting bottle tops it is.



All targets sub optimise your system. Instead measure what matters to your customer.


This is a wonderful post. My frustrations in dealing with the economics profession often dealt with their lack of interest in really understanding what the data meant, how it was defined and where it came from. There was a complete lack of interest in non-quantifiable information - including primary evidence from archival material or people working out on the field. They look for a Phillips curve and if they see it - they go back to their models.



There's an old adage, 'knows everything, understands nothing'. Metrics provide useful information to complement and supplement understanding, but they're not substitute for understanding. This is where they get misused in managerialism. I've worked in BI/MIS for a long time, I've seen how carefully chosen metrics meaningful to the user bring real benefit, I've also seen how they are a crutch for charlatans.

I used to work for a major corporate where the 'superstar' mediocrity in charge of unit was 'all about the numbers'. My team produced pages of KPIs for him and his arse lickers. But most had no tacit understanding of underlying processes and mechanisms, so everything had to have a target, otherwise it would be meaningless. And although targets were profiled for seasonality etc they couldn't reflect real world events, which meant constantly explaining divergence obvious to those who had basic undertanding of underlying mechanisms. But execs rotated regularly, and many didn't do 'details' even when 'attention to detail' was supposedly their schtick, it was all very surreal.

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