My New Job
by Ken Arneson
A generation ago, nearly every General Manager in Major League Baseball was a former major league player. Today, there are only three. What happened? Sabermetrics.
Popularized by Michael Lewis’ Moneyball, sabermetrics involves the use sophisticated statistical analysis to help teams gain that little extra edge it takes to win. Gone are the days when being a backslapping good-old-boy was the key to landing a GM job. In these days of information overload and super-fast computers, success means knowing how to squeeze The Extra 2%, as Jonah Keri puts it, out of every transaction.
And now these sabermetric concepts are spreading. Nate Silver, one of the pioneers of baseball statistical analysis, has moved on from baseball into politics. His FiveThirtyEight blog is a must-read for all political junkies.
This is a tremendously exciting change for some. But for political professionals, it’s a scary development, as evidenced just this morning when the popular political blog Frum Forum posted an article entitled “Why Moneyball Doesn’t Work.” Politicos are now going into attack mode on baseball.
The job description for politicians, like old baseball GMs, still mostly involves being a backslapping good-old-boy. But what if the migration of Nate Silvers into politics changes the job description for them, as it did for baseball GMs? What if they need to understand basic mathematics and rational reasoning in order to perform and keep their jobs, instead of just blowing hot air in whatever direction feels right? What if the Moneyball revolution spreads as quickly in politics as it did in baseball? What if efficiency in government actually suddenly becomes important, and the formerly-valuable skill of spewing vapid rhetoric turns formerly respected professionals into pitifully sad ignorant has-beens like Murray Chass? Like the old-school scouts who could not adjust to the new era, all these people could all be out of a job within a decade!
That’s where I come in.
Three years ago, I wrote a blog entry on How to Defeat a Sabermetrician in an Argument. This article remains to this day, if I must say so myself, the definitive explanation on how to oppose sabermetrics. The bonus is, that I also happened to throw a little political analysis into the article, just on a lark. So as Nate-Silverism started spreading in the political industry, frightened political professionals turned to Google for help, and found my article. It has spread like wildfire inside the Beltway.
As a result, last week I went to Washington DC. I spent over eight days in our nations capital. I met all sorts of fascinating people, of both parties. I even had dinners with lobbyists, while watching a beautiful sunset over the Potomac.
I visited the White House, and went inside the US Capitol and the various office buildings nearby, and had all sorts of interesting conversations. It became clear to me that the Moneyball problem for the political industry is a fully bipartisan issue. Both parties can agree: the sabermetric way of thinking is a threat to the traditional way American politics has worked for two centuries now. It’s a threat to the livelihood of many good people, on both sides of the political aisle.
After much discussion, an agreement was reached. I will be heading the newly formed National Bipartisan Commission for Intuitive Statecraft. Our mission will be to preserve, protect and defend the time-tested methods of political reasoning against the cold, deductive arts that are coming into vogue. We shall provide counterintelligence against the likes of Nate Silver and Jonah Keri and Billy Beane, to slow and even turn back the spread of their ruthlessly efficiencies and deductive philosophies into the political landscape.
Needless to say, I am extremely proud, honored, and excited about this opportunity. I get a nice corner office just a few blocks from the White House. I get to take my words, and put them into action. And to take arms against terrible scourge that most of our fellow citizens are not yet even aware of, but could soon overtake America’s very way of life.
And so I dedicate myself to this great task before me, that the men and women who dedicated their intuitions for political success shall not have pontificated in vain, and that the political profession and the media that covers it shall have a new birth of profitability, and that bullshit by the people, of the people, and for the people, shall not perish from this earth.