Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way

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100 Book While 40: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game

Title: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game
Author: Michael Lewis
Published: 2003

We aren’t logical. Take a gander at this list. If there’s one thing this list should make plain, it’s that we often have gaps in judgement.

Baseball is a big money business. And it’s one that provides ample statistical data. And yet, this book narrates the challenges analysts had in getting baseball insiders to accept that the data tells a more accurate story than men who have spent a lifetime scouting for new players.

This idea, our failure to think logically, and our failure to acknowledge it, started swimming around my head after 9/11. While that was a terrible event, I grew puzzled that not only were citizens of the largest cities fearful of a terrorist attack but those from the most remote and sparsely populated areas were equally distressed. They weren’t just mildly concerned either. The entire population was so scared that they willingly sent even more Americans to die on bits of desert that figure in their lives in no tangible way what so ever. Not only were they behind putting our soldiers in harms way, but they also supported the extravagant 4-6 trillion dollar price tag to support this military action.

Just as a point of reference, the national debt is currently clocking in around 19 trillion. So, the wars account for about a quarter of that. With just the costs of the Iraq War alone we could have paid off half of every American’s mortgage. We could have given every American child access to preschool 40 times over. We could have installed a national light rail system 8 times over (for more shit would could have done check this page).

In retrospect, I can’t say what Americans envisioned as the outcome of the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars, but I am supposing living with ISIS wasn’t it. Yet even now I am hearing an alarming number of Americans advocating for more military action in the Middle East. Did we learn nothing? The apparent answer is yes.

One constant from September 11th 2001 until now is our fear. Today Americans are just as scared that they will be victims of terrorist attacks as they were then. And yet, the probability of dying in a terrorist attack is stunningly remote. We are talking on the level of lightening strike or becoming shark bait here. Yet here were are, a significant number of us want to bomb Syria.

This problem with our inability to be logical? The founders were aware, even while we continue to seem blissfully ignorant of it. The judicial branch is there to prevent the tyranny of the majority. AKA, you guys can be stupid, and not just a few of you, but MOST of you at once. Plus, there’s this from a fascinating article in The Atlantic.

The Framers worried about demagogic excess and populist caprice, so they created buffers and gatekeepers between voters and the government. Only one chamber, the House of Representatives, would be directly elected. A radical who wanted to get into the Senate would need to get past the state legislature, which selected senators; a usurper who wanted to seize the presidency would need to get past the Electoral College, a convocation of elders who chose the president; and so on.

In baseball, the data eventually won. But when I am watching Trump at the RNC tell America that we are all in danger, I am dubious of data’s power here. In the case of baseball, there are clear and expensive consequences to ignoring the data. In politics, although the consequences are even more expensive, the relationship of cause and effect is cloudy.