On reasoning and reading in general

Back when I studied at the university I learned many important lessons, amongst them this one:

Difficult issues are often under influence by many relevant factors. This may be as many as ten for a seemingly simple policy question, for example. To overlook a single factor may lead to a 180° wrong conclusion.
And it's really difficult to account for all those factors. People without many years of learning in the area of research have almost no chance to account for all of them and can almost exclusively be correct by chance.

Experts who should know all relevant factors don't necessarily, or don't want to necessarily, though. Sometimes theory hasn't advanced enough to discover all factors and at other times the expert is a partisan and prefers a certain conclusion. This may lead him subconsciously to ignore the factors which could keep him from reaching the desirable conclusion. The economist G. Mankiw is a fine example for this; he is rarely wrong in his claims about factors, but he very often ignores something important which doesn't suit his preferences.*

What's my track record for taking into account all factors and ignoring none?
I'm the last one to know. I don't know what I don't know and nobody can spot the own subconscious deficits.

I would thus like to refer to my mosaic analogy; never pay most attention to conclusions. Don't mistake sources as necessarily all-wrong or all-correct. Develop your ability to pick the gems from the noise and consider blogs such as this one as sources which provide both noise and gems, and use the gems to approach a full accounting of the relevant factors.


*: He promoted this, for example. The conclusions are all-wrong because the data ignores real productivity growth and is thus totally distorted. It is not enough to merely take inflation into account when looking at income distribution questions.


  1. You constantly factor global sea lines of communication as of little value for Germany and Europe.

    1. I wouldn't say that. I rather doubt that they're defensible. Even the mere transatlantic trade lanes could easily require hundreds of additional ships, helicopter and aircraft each for a thorough defence.

      Maritime trade security is commerce defence, and I rank this below strategic air defence and far below territorial defence. This is a world of scarce resources, so the more important requirements deserve to be prioritised.