Prediction is easy. It’s one of the easiest things in the world. The difficult bit is getting your predictions right. However, getting your prediction right isn’t always the only thing that matters. As a society, we give too much credit, on the person who fluked the unlikely, and far too little criticism on people who get things consistently wrong.
In the case of the fluke, some people have attempted to claim a lot of credibility from the fact that they predicted a Trump win. In their triumphal gloating, they claim that they were right and everyone else was wrong. However, people who only gave Trump a ten percent chance of winning weren’t necessarily wrong. Think about it this way.: Most of you wouldn’t play Russian roulette even though the odds of the bullet being in the chamber is only 16%; you’re aware that it’s entirely possible that something with a low chance of happening might happen. And you probably wouldn’t play even if you were the chance to win a million dollars with one click of the gun.
Just getting a prediction right doesn’t mean that your reasoning was sound. When Fred consumes twenty stubbies and assures you that he’s right to drive, the fact that he makes it home safely doesn’t mean that he made an intelligent decision even though his prediction was accurate. Similarly, you should ignore the argument that he always intended to knock over the letterbox because it’s ugly and his decision to use his car to do it was a flash of genius that he wouldn’t have had if he’d taken a taxi.
The unlikely event that happens is just that: An exception to expectations.
So, if by some freak of statistics or some fiddling with the figures, and Turnbull does win the next Newspoll, and I look clever, it’s no good asking me for the Tattslotto numbers or stock market tips. I’ve had my fluke for the year. Of course, I deliberately said next because that means that I can point to the headline and say I was right in the unlikely event that he ever actually wins another one.
That would be similar to the way that during the GFC, the media gave a lot of time to pundits who’d been predicting a crash, and asked them what would happen next. Of course, the fact that some of them had been predicting a crash since 1988 didn’t stop the media from saying how prescient they were. Predicting a catastrophe in global markets is a bit like predicting rain in a desert. Sooner or later, it’ll happen, but a lot of people will die of thirst waiting for their containers to be filled.
The great thing about making predictions is that nobody ever seems to remember the ones people get wrong. (I’m talking here about the media, of course, Some of my friends still remember predictions I got wrong from last century!) Some political and economic commentators will be back telling us about the future and nobody will ever have the temerity to remind them that the only thing they got right in the past five years was when they were asked for a tip on Melbourne Cup Day. And even then all they got right was, “Number 5, but I have no idea, so you’d be foolish to back my horse.”
So it’s no surprise that these commentators don’t call out politicians for their lack of prophetic powers. After all, when everyone’s getting it wrong, it’s best just to move forward and hope that nobody has a memory or enough time to go back and point out that the most accurate thing that anybody said was: “Whatever. The sun will still rise tomorrow.”
Ok, we all remember when Malcolm Turnbull told us that Barnaby Joyce shouldn’t stand down as Deputy PM because the High Court would find in his favour, but we didn’t think of that as an inaccurate prediction. We just presumed that it was Malcolm’s arrogance that he knew the law because he’d studied it.
And Tony Abbott’s wonderful concession speech to Malcolm Turnbull where he predicted that there’d be no sniping or. undermining. That’s pretty hard to forget, but we don’t take that as a failure of prediction; we just take it as another broken Liberal promise.
But we seem to have collective amnesia when we read yet another article about how Adani intends to start it’s mine “next month”, no matter how many times they announce an intention to start soon.
And then there’s, all those golden oldies: Predictions byTony Abbott and Joe Hockey about getting the Budget back into the black in their first term of office, and how once we had a Liberal government then the economy would click back into gear and…
Budget deficit? What Budget deficit? Everything’s just fine. We can give business a tax cut. And this will lead to wage rises. No, really. Nothing surer. Didn’t we say that we’d have jobs and growth? And isn’t growth just as good as it was under Labor? And didn’t we produce a record number of jobs last year? In fact, we produced enough jobs that unemployment didn’t go up. Ok, it didn’t go down but it will when the company tax cuts get passed.
We know this because if there’s one thing you can depend on, it’s a prediction.