As my old career field, political science, now endures even more criticism for its non-predictive nature, let’s pause for a moment. Perhaps it’s the word science in the name that leads people to this predictive critique. But is something that can’t be predictive not worth doing? No, politics still is a worthy field of study and a valid career pursuit. So perhaps we should change the name to political philosophy or current affairs. Or just move beyond a critique.
Even if the study of politics is inherently lacking in predictive abilities, what’s wrong with being reactive? We are inundated with change. I’m amused by folks who think we stifle innovation in this country. In fact, we have so much of it, happening so fast, many of us have difficulty coping. So why can’t political science help us cope with changes that it can’t predict? Why can’t the political process help us chart a course through, at times, what seems like mindless innovation? Furthering understanding of something has value.
I sit here as a recovering political scientist absolutely incapable of predicting the outcome of the next presidential election. But I can offer insight and some some suggestions for ”What do we do now?” no matter which way it goes. So I’m not particularly disheartened by the criticism. I don’t need to have prediction success to be viable.
As an aside, I often chide my hard science friends for a lack of predictability that exists in their realm. Ask an astronomer to predict when the next supernova will occur. Or ask a quantum physicist to predict where an electron (or even matter itself) will be at any given moment. Even those trips to the moon and back needed course corrections, caused by a lack of total predictability. But they do have more prediction success in their arena. It turns out that politics is more difficult than physics or chemistry.