Sunday, April 13, 2014

Law-Breaking Econometricians

I don't follow Lars P. Syll's blog, but the other day I was led there by a Twitter tweet. Lars begins his recent post, "Forecasting Alchemy", with the following statement:
'In New York State, Section 899 of the Code of Criminal Procedure provides that persons “Pretending to Forecast the Future” shall be considered disorderly under subdivision 3, Section 901 of the Code and liable to a fine of $250 and/or six months in prison."
Although the law does not apply to “ecclesiastical bodies acting in good faith and without fees,” I’m not sure where that leaves econometricians and other forecasters …'
I'm not sure either, but I'm not going to lose sleep over this unless I happen to re-locate to NY State.

Other economists have also drawn attention to this rather alarming piece of legislation, including Joan Robinson on page 8 of her 1981 book, What are the Questions?: And Other Essays: Further Contributions to Modern Economics.

Walter A. Friedman's recent book, Fortune Tellers: The Story of America's Economic Forecasters provides some insights into the origins of economic forecasting, and perhaps into that of Section 899. (See here for an excerpt.)



© 2014, David E. Giles

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