November 6, 2012

The 50-50 Principle exemplified

The 50-50 Principle says that things that could go either way in the future are most exciting looking forward, but are the least informative looking back.

Consider a huge example.

Can you remember back 12 years? For 35 days, the biggest news story in the history of the world was the tie vote in Florida. Indeed, in terms of frenzied interest it seemed like a much bigger story than the rather ho-hum election campaign that had preceded. Why? Because it was a tie, and thus, for 35 suspenseful days, could have gone either way. Bush could have won or Gore could have won.

On the other hand, even on a 2012 Election Day that might conceivably lead to something remotely similar, that whole five weeks seems intensely boring in retrospect. There were few large lessons to be learned, no vast new trends uncovered. There was just a tie.

And even in terms of what few large lessons there were from the recounts, the Accepted Narrative mostly managed to avoid learning them. The heart of the story is that more people tried to vote for Gore than Bush, but more Democrats, especially black Democrats in the slums, tend to be screw-ups, so they screwed-up filling in their ballots more. But, you won't hear that, other than a comic reference to retired Jews of Palm Beach voting for Pat Buchanan.

The 50-50 principle suggests that the events that seem most exciting in prospect tend to be the least important in terms of learning important lessons, and the realities that in retrospect ought to teach the most important lessons tend to be the most boring in prospect.

I can now say I've proved the important of the 50-50 principle by repeatedly boring into near-catatonia on this topic even my highly indulgent readers.

12 comments:

chocolate registrar said...

We might be screw-ups at casting our own ballots, but we're quite skilled at negating yours, as you're about to find out.

Evil Sandmich said...

Even more depressing is that, given the brew-ha-ha over that tie, I have to wonder what the difference is one way or the other twelve years on. It's like some sick joke arranged by our elites to make us think that the election was a really big deal.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget about Dan Blather calling FL early for Bore, in a naked attempt to supress the GOP vote in the panhandle, where polling places had not yet closed.

Anonymous said...

David Siegel "elected" GWB in Florida.

In an on-camera interview, David Siegel crows that he got George W. Bush elected president. When asked how he did that, the Florida resident declines to give particulars, claiming his actions “might not have been legal.”

Read more: http://forward.com/articles/159145/the-biggest-mcmansion-of-them-all/?p=all#ixzz2BUxIyVbc

FredR said...

Things would have been very different with Gore in charge after 2000 rather than Bush.

Auntie Analogue said...


2000 was bathetic because we had Scads of Chads but...no Jeremy. "But that was yesterday, and Yesterday's Gone."

Cail Corishev said...

I got caught up in debating the whole thing on a PC gaming group on Usenet, of all places. Probably wrote a hundred thousand words about it. What a waste of time.

There were a few more lessons than you listed, though. We learned that Democrats are far better at the ground-level battles over things like valid ballots, with their threat to bring 10,000 lawyers to the next close election, so the GOP needs to win by a clear margin from now on if they expect it to count. We learned that the Dems will go as far as to try to throw out absentee ballots from servicemen to win. We learned that there's no point in having rules about when vote counting has to end, or how the state governments set their own rules and break ties, because they're going to chicken out and punt it to the SCOTUS anyway.

Luke Lea said...

What about those butterfly ballots in that Jewish district? They weren't habitual screw-ups. Far from it. As for the consequences, say what you will about Gore he would likely not have been the screw-up Bush turned out to be.

Thus that election may in hindsight be seen as a major turning point in our history on a par with the JFK assassination, in the absence of which there would probably have been no war in Vietnam like the one we had and no Great Society.

Cail Corishev said...

"As for the consequences, say what you will about Gore he would likely not have been the screw-up Bush turned out to be."

True, he would have done harmful things on purpose, not from naivete and foolishness.

Norville Rogers said...

Oh... this post title reminded me of Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "cancel-out fallacy" (aka "the 50-50 fallacy"--that "both sides are equally bad," "lesser of 2 evils," etc. etc.). Your point's good though

inb4 google hall monitor said...

I can now say I've proved the important of the 50-50 principle by repeatedly boring into near-catatonia on this topic even my highly indulgent readers

No, the machine only shows 3 other mentions of it. And 2 other mentions of catatonia, neither in reference to this post's subject. I think you were trying to write about Catalonia actually.

ben tillman said...

You must love soccer!