My two least-favorite moments in the 2022 discourse were 1) left-wing people confidently asserting that Joe Manchin’s objections to Build Back Better were offered in bad faith due to his fealty to the coal industry and 2) right-wing people confidently asserting that Sam Bankman-Fried would be immune from legal consequences due to his campaign contributions to Democratic Party elected officials.
Those assertions rankled in my view not because being wrong is such a terrible sin, but because when those assertions were proven wrong, I saw almost no effort by the people who’d made them to grapple with their own wrongness. In the case of SBF, a few even insisted that their own complaining was the only reason Bankman-Fried was held to account, so they were in a sense vindicated. I think that’s wrong, factually, as an assessment of what happened, but even if it were correct, it wouldn’t vindicate the incorrect forecast.
This tweet is not Elon Musk urging his followers to put pressure on the SEC, CFTC, and Department of Justice to investigate FTX’s collapse — it’s him asserting, totally unconditionally, that the Democratic Party is so corrupt there would be no investigation, even though press reports of an investigation were published a couple of days before Musk’s tweet and it later came to light that the Southern District of New York was looking at FTX over the summer before the whole thing fell apart.
Similarly, once the Inflation Reduction Act finally came together, activists on the left claimed credit for the bill. And while it’s genuinely good that they decided they liked it, the fact is that if Joe Biden, Chuck Schumer, and Ron Wyden had listened to progressive activists’ diagnosis of the situation, they would have pulled the plug on talks prematurely and there would have been neither an IRA nor a bipartisan infrastructure bill. The legacy of the 117th Congress would instead have been a bunch of tweets about politically destructive efforts to kneecap U.S. energy production via executive order.
The point of an annual predictions exercise isn’t really the exercise itself — it’s a training ground to try to be less full of shit. When you write predictions down in precise terms using exact probability estimates and then check back in later to assess yourself, you find that predicting the future is very hard. I got a bit better at it the second year I tried it. But making regular and precise predictions doesn’t mean that you magically become prescient, it means that you get better at saying precisely what you mean and acknowledging uncertainties about the future. Whatever their opinion of Manchin’s politics, why were people so sure he was acting in “bad faith” when we all know we can’t read minds? Why did people who’ve never covered the DOJ or financial regulatory agencies and who’ve never paid attention to intra-Dem factional politics feel so sure about SBF?
One of my goals for this year was to write down a larger number of predictions in hopes of gaining more insight into how well-calibrated any of this actually is. I also decided to separate the look back at my 2022 predictions from my predictions for 2023, which follow.
Ten predictions on foreign elections
I think it’s generally going to be a rough year for incumbents because the only real source of growth globally will be supply-side reforms that are inherently politically controversial. We don’t have a lot of major national elections on the schedule for this year, so I had to reach for some kind of obscure races to fill out the list.
New Democracy will be the largest party after the Greek parliamentary election (80%)
Alberto Fernández not re-elected as President of Argentina (70%)
Pedro Sánchez out as Prime Minister of Spain (70%)
Sanna Marin out as Prime Minister of Finland (70%)
Kaja Kallas re-elected as Prime Minister of Estonia (70%)
In Poland, Law and Justice will lose its majority in the Sejm (60%)
Danuše Nerudová elected President of Czechia (60%)
No federal election in Canada (80%)
Rachel Notley becomes premier of Alberta (70%)
Red-Red-Green coalition is reelected in Berlin (70%)
Two of these ten sports things will happen
I wanted to build some sports predictions into the list this year. It was challenging, though, because if you think about a question like “who’s going to win the Super Bowl?” there’s no team whose odds are over 50 percent. To say that the Eagles have a 20 percent chance of winning is to say the Eagles are very good. But if you want to know whether low-odds predictions like that are any good, you need a bunch of them.
So I came up with 10 specific sports predictions, each of which I think has a roughly 20 percent chance of coming true. So if one or three of these things happen, that’s pretty good. If zero or four (or more!) of them happen, I was off the mark.
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