Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Why Virginia Postrel Is an Old-Fashioned Baseball Guy

It's because she's letting her "gut" inform her view of the world, unburdened by any statistics. As Michael Bérubé noted qualitatively, and both Brad DeLong and Max Sawicky ("She has no data to support the case she is pretending not to be making") noted quantitatively, Postrel last Sunday mused in the New York Times that maybe the jobs picture is "prettier" than the official statistics--but we don't have any data to support that assertion, and the oft-noted discrepancy between the two major employment data sources has remained essentially constant over the past three years, so it's not like one statistic says we're creating more jobs than the other.

In relying on her "dynamic" gut, Postrel is like sports reporters and old-time baseball guys who know (or who have been told by older baseball guys) what it takes to win baseball games and who can't be bothered by analyzing statistics or using the scientific method to test (or toss out) their theories. The baseball guys value abstract qualities only they can judge, and dismiss the value of statistics--and in one recent case noted by Matt Welch, ignore Kirk Gibson's incredible lifetime statistics to focus on his "leadership qualities" instead.

If you're making an argument about statistics, some rigor and data would be nice. And if you're not, then you're just Joe Morgan reciting old-time baseball "wisdom" that doesn't stand up to analysis.

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