I emphasize careful data analysis in all cases, regardless of my own preconceptions or feelings on a given issue (see Politics). In doing this analysis, my fundamental principle is to avoid thinking in black and white. Qualifying data in different shades of gray provides far greater opportunities for insight.
One major post where I discuss my careful analytic method is Thinking Like an Economist: When Does it Pay Off? (April 8, 2010). A small excerpt:
“I was recently asked to participate in a poll of bloggers that had a number of dubious questions. Typical was whether the Las Vegas City Center complex would add new traffic or would cannibalize the existing base.
This was an awful question -- typical "light switch" thinking. It is what you see on financial TV and opinion blogs. It encourages a terrible habit for investors -- thinking that something is black or white, instead of a distribution of results. The honest answer (a little of both) does not make for an exciting story.”
I further explore the impact sensationalist journalism has had on how we view the economy in The Economy: Problems and Solutions (January 14, 2008):
“Most market pundits see this as a black-and-white, light switch kind of problem. There is an economic problem. It is up to the Fed to act. They should cut rates aggressively. The Fed does not see what we do, therefore they are slow in acting.”
I support my ideas with an insightful comment by Maria Bartiromo in the post How to Win a Recession-Predicting Contest (April 2, 2008):
“’[T]he truth is, [‘Today’ co-anchor] Meredith [Vieira], it doesn't matter if we’re in a recession,’ Bartiromo said. ‘We can talk ourselves into a recession, and that seems to be what we’re doing right now and that certainly begets more weakness.’”
“It is fine to be skeptical, to look for bias, and to challenge information. Nearly everyone goes too far in this direction --- way too far. It is what I call “light switch” thinking. It is far wiser and more profitable to get the best information from each source.
I am particularly troubled by the reaction to formal models. The criticism of models comes mostly from those who know nothing about them.”