Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Best Forecaster of Supreme Court Decisions is Some Guy Out of Queens

It's not surprising he beats out "the wisdom of the crowds." This is a much misunderstood concept that some how got linked with Hayekian price signal theory,

Please guys, Hayekian price signal theory is about signalling current supply and demand dynamics. It is not about forecasting the future. If the masses had a clue, which is what the concept "wisdom of crowds" rally is about, just phrased differently, we wouldn't have the kind of government we currently have. Te crowds would vote differently (if at all.) In general, I am not impressed with crowds.

That said, Jacob Berlove, 30, of Queens, is beating out the wisdom of crowds, computer models, political scientists, legal scholars, practitioners, physicists and engineers with his remarkable track record of correct forecasts of Supreme Court decisions.

This is his training according to FiveThirtyEight:
Berlove has no formal legal training. Nor does he use statistical analyses to aid his predictions. He got interested in the Supreme Court in elementary school, reading his local paper, the Cincinnati Enquirer. In high school, he stumbled upon a constitutional law textbook.
“I read through huge chunks of it and I had a great time,” he told me. “I learned a lot over that weekend.”
What he seems to have is a pretty good memory and,does the obvious: He pays attention to what the Supremes say during oral arguments:
 Berlove has a prodigious memory for justices’ past decisions and opinions, and relies heavily on their colloquies in oral arguments. When we spoke, he had strong feelings about certain justices’ oratorical styles and how they affected his predictions.

Some justices are easy to predict. “I really appreciate Justice Scalia’s candor,” he said. “In oral arguments, 90 percent of the time he makes it very clear what he is thinking.”

Some are not. “To some extent, Justice Thomas might be the hardest, because he never speaks in oral arguments, ever.”1 That fact is mitigated, though, by Thomas’s rather predictable ideology. Justices Kennedy and Breyer can be tricky, too. Kennedy doesn’t tip his hand too much in oral arguments. And Breyer, Berlove says, plays coy.

“He expresses this deep-seated, what I would argue is a phony humility at oral arguments. ‘No, I really don’t know. This is a difficult question. I have to think about it. It’s very close.’ And then all of sudden he writes the opinion and he makes it seem like it was never a question in the first place. I find that to be very annoying.”
The entire fascinating story is here.


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