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Buck Woody

Carpe Datum!

There is No Perfect Information

I read a very interesting (and lengthy) article yesterday from Reuter’s (you can find the whole thing here) in which the author goes into some detail about people in the government that are self-described “data dogs”. I find it an interesting study in general, since I also value data as well – but the article finally seems to land on a topic that I thought had been put to bed.

Several of the folks in the article seem to be under the belief that if we just had a little more data, we’d be able to predict the future with it, at least on an economic front. I don’t agree. Sure, more data is usually a good thing – but there is a limit. It’s different for each situation, but sometimes more data isn’t any better than a little data, especially when you can’t process it all anyway.

My science background teaches me that there is no such thing as “perfect” information about any system – it’s a myth. So I was surprised at finding very intelligent people chasing after “perfect” data – I just don’t think we’ll ever have. On the other hand, I could be reading too much into their statements. Perhaps they are just looking for that “good enough” level of data.

What do you think?

Published Wednesday, July 07, 2010 7:59 AM by BuckWoody
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Dave Wentzel said:

The problem is too many economists treat economics as a science instead of as a study in human action.  In order to get perfect information on the economy you would need to stop the economy to get it into equilibrium, then collect the data.  That is of course impossible.  So, most economists, whom are Keynesians by trade, are always trying to find the right equations to model an equilibrium that can't exist.  Those who believe economics is a study in human action still value data, we just understand the human element is much more important.  If you do a search on "Austrian economics" you will see that this is the only group that holds these beliefs and the only school of economics to successfully predict: 1)the housing bubble 2)the stock market/.com crash of 2000 3)the fall in the value of the dollar (and all currencies frankly) 4)etc etc.  This was predicted using some data, but more importantly understanding how people make economic decisions regardless of available information, perfect or otherwise.  

July 7, 2010 1:22 PM

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