On Accountability

What do you think Arjun Murti has to say for himself right now? The Goldman Sachs analyst predicted a few months ago that oil would move to $200 per barrel in the next couple of years, and sent everybody into a tizzy. Perhaps the one upside of the recent economic cataclysm is that the price of crude has not done so, and is, in fact, plummeting down into the $60s at this point. So… what’s he got to say for himself? Looks like he might have been spectacularly wrong here. All that freaking out we did a few months ago based on his forecast might have been for naught. That’s aggravating.

What do any of the predictors, prognosticators, seers, sooth-sayers and other artists of that sort have to say for themselves in the wake of all the failed predictions, prognostications, visions and general collapses of sooth we’ve got going on right now?

Nothing. They just keep on prognosticating. Every morning my inbox is steaming with them. There’s an entire industry of such people out there and they haven’t stopped just because they’ve been wrong most of the time, or missed the walking forest of doom for one particular tree or another. They keep on running their models and honing their numbers just as if the subject they’re addressing is amenable to rational analysis.

It isn’t. I think all but the most demented MIT risk managers can now agree on that.

I’ve got a suggestion. How about we lobby for a new division within the Government Accountability Office, responsible for the oversight and public evaluation of analysts, pundits and opinion jockeys of all sorts? It could publish an ongoing list of statements and forecasts made by those anointed to do so, judge the size and grotesqueness of their errors, exaggerations and assorted musings, and hold occasional public events where particularly dramatic offenders are invited to speak about the precise financial and scientific metrics they utilized to acheive their discredited conclusions. Then we can put donkey-heads on them and ride them around the room on a chair.

It might not stop the madness. But it sure would be a whole lot more fun, and might actually help to keep us mindful of who we perhaps should be listening to in times of crisis, and we should probably ignore… a lot.

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