On the plane, I read Eric by Terry Pratchett, and Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb. Both were good reading, and I think I'll probably pick up the sequel to Hobb's book soon. For the moment, though, I think I've switched gears -- in reading if not in music -- and after I came home this evening I spent some time listening to the local jazz station and reading The Great Unraveling by Paul Krugman, a collection of editorial essays taken from Krugman's regular New York Times column.
In the preface, Krugman states his background clearly:
Why did I see what others failed to see? One reason is that as a trained economist I wasn't even for a minute tempted to fall into the he-said-she-said style of reporting, under which opposing claims by politicians are given equal credence regardless of the facts. I did my own arithmetic -- or, where necessary, fot hold of real economists who could educate me on the subject I wrote about -- and quickly realized that we were dealing with world-class mendacity, right here in the USA.
Whether or not you agree with Krugman's conclusions -- I find his
arguments compeling -- I find this paragraph very interesting. The
first point he makes is that, in many areas, not all
perspectives are equally valid. Certainly neither science nor
mathematics are democratic endeavours. We don't legislate the value
of pi, and we usually accept that someone who has spent years
thinking about a technical topic might have some intuition that we
lack. But a scientist or mathematician is only credible insofar as
he can demonstrate his conclusions based on available data -- which
should, ideally, be something that a non-expert could follow (though
in some cases you might reasonably need to be a tenacious non-expert
with a long attention span, and by the end of your endeavour you
might no longer qualify as a non-expert). And this is the second
point: opposing claims that can be judged on a factual basis
should be judged on a factual basis. If
balanced coverage means that
I say pi is about 3.14 and you
say pi is about 2.86, so really we should weight both perspectives
equally to guess that pi is 3 -- well, I suppose that means that
life isn't fair by all lights. But then, who said it was?
As for the specific conclusions that Krugman draws -- well, I'll quote again:
But have I been right? Read the book and decide for yourself.
- Currently drinking: Black coffee