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The pollsters got it wrong again, just as they did with the Brexit vote and the Colombia peace vote. In each case, they incorrectly predicted one side would win—Hillary Clinton, Remain, and yes—and many of us were taken in by the apparent certainty of the results. I certainly was. In each case, I told family […]

Uncertainty, as we wrote years ago, is a real problem. Not a problem in and of itself. But it’s certainly a problem for modernist thinking. That’s why, time and gain, neoclassical economists have attempted to reduce uncertainty to probabilistic certainty. It also seems to be why a team of scientists (neurobiologists and others) [ht: ja] have devised […]

Wednesday’s story about the Hydronic Lift, the Italian company that closed its doors while workers were on vacation, forces us to ask the following question: whose uncertainty are we talking about? In recent years, neoclassical economists and right-wing politicians have focused exclusive attention on employers’ uncertainty in the face of changes in taxes and government […]

Readers of this blog know that I have sung the praises of Nate Silver’s statistical work for quite some time, long before the right-wing attacks on his electoral predictions started. My appreciation stems not from Silver’s predictions per se but, rather, from his appreciation of uncertainty, as this review by Samuel Popkin makes clear. One of […]

Nate Silver is my favorite statistician precisely because he understands the fundamental importance of uncertainty: The Weather Service has struggled over the years with how much to let the public in on what it doesn’t exactly know. In April 1997, Grand Forks, N.D., was threatened by the flooding Red River, which bisects the city. Snowfall […]

Uncertainty is all the rage right now, with a wide variety of economists and central bankers “discovering” its disturbing effects in the midst of the current crises of capitalism. But I’ll bet it’s just a passing fad. As soon as things return to normal, uncertainty will be put back on the shelf and, once again, […]

In a highly unequal society, the social epistemics of people at the bottom are very different from those of other social classes. For Daniel Little, the challenge is to try to understand society not in terms of the “abstract goals” of academic social scientists but “from the other end of the stick—the perspective of the […]

What is the case for taking ethics in economics seriously? I have argued that the ethical moment of the gift is a product of the uncertainty of gift-giving. George DeMartino [pdf] makes a similar argument concerning the relationship between ethics and economics: ethics is born out of the uncertainty both of economic knowledge and of […]

I have long admired Nate Silver’s willingness to embrace uncertainty. Fortunately, Silver has not been cowed by attacks on his critique of the hubris of supposedly expert judgement. So, he restates his case: Experts have a poor understanding of uncertainty. Usually, this manifests itself in the form of overconfidence: experts underestimate the likelihood that their […]

Capitalist uncertainty

Posted: 4 October 2011 in Uncategorized
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Is uncertainty the cause of the current stalled recovery? Uncertainty has become the favorite refrain of right-wing economists and politicians—even though (as I have argued before) they’ve turned the story upside down, arguing that uncertainty is a negative condition, in stark contrast to Frank Knight and other Austrian/libertarian economists, for whom uncertainty was the basis […]