A doctoral student found that national income is correlated with the average length of the erect penis in a country…

Westling claims that he uses standard statistical methods and that his results are robust; that the correlation is both highly statistically and economically significant…

I asked Westling how he would characterise his research paper, and he suggested the term ‘sardonic economics’ – and, he added, ‘Scientifically, this paper is probably as worthless as much of contemporary economics.’

[T]he world is simply too complicated for anyone to analyse with much success. …But… most decisions in life involve some element of forecasting. … That means that our plans will often need to be torn up. … [I]f the road ahead is unknowable, the ability to change direction should not be underrated.
[W]e ought to be very skeptical of anyone who claims [to] know how to solve a complex problem…. The world is bigger than the mind, and so real problem-solving requires huge teams of humble people willing to try things out and, if need be, to fail.
Not many people want to vote for a candidate who says, ‘I really am not sure how to improve schools in our area, so I plan to pilot half a dozen ideas, and we’ll keep the one or two that we can prove to have worked.’ But the other guy – the one who claims he does know – isn’t telling us the truth about uncertainty and failure. He’s just telling us what we want to hear.

Tim Harford is my new public intellectual crush. More from him tomorrow.

(Source: youtube.com)