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Sabernomics and Social Change

In addition to thinking a lot about baseball, I also spend a lot of time thinking about and working towards social change. I would like to share some insights about sabermetrics, the scientific method, and thinking critically about our economic system.  Let me know if this makes any sense.

I am not a stat head (yet), but I do fully understand that the power of the scientific method is to systematically analyze past events so that accurate predictions can be made about the future. The reason sabermetrics work so well is that baseball is a rule based game, and as a result of these rules, easily identifiable patterns emerge: the pitcher starts a play by stepping on the rubber and tossing the ball (usually) towards home plate; the batter has three strikes or four balls to try to hit the ball in play and run towards first; certain events result in creating outs.  Baseball, in this way, becomes like a natural system where predictable things happen.  Scientific analysis, great at making predictions about natural systems regulated by natural laws, thus can also make accurate predictions about the cultural system of baseball regulated by its cultural rules.

I think understanding why we can use stats to predict what will happen in baseball is also telling when it comes to understanding our relationship to the economic system we live in.  In many ways we treat our current economic reality like a natural system, for example, a tropical storm moving across the Caribbean, and not a cultural system, for example, our beloved game of baseball.  I would argue, however, that economics and baseball are very similar in that they are both cultural systems guided by human made rules.  Right now it is the general cultural rule to only invest when profit can be made.  Right now, it is the general cultural rule that people with resources can choose what they want to do with them.  So right now, we have a global economic culture that tends not to invest many resources in places where profit cannot be made.  As a consequence, we have a lot of poverty in this world and not a whole lot being done about it.  

Economics, however, is not a natural system like a tropical storm.  Economics, in fact, is a cultural system like baseball.  Just as "sabermetricians" can use stats to predict what about baseball, economists can use data to predict what will happen in the global economy.  For example, if we raise taxes on businesses to provide healthcare and quality public education for everyone, less profit will be made.  Making less profit, most businesses will follow the rules of the game and take their money someplace else (China, Latin America, etc.) where they can make more.   Just as Slyde or Greg would tell you that Corey Patterson batting first everyday will probably lead to less run production in the Reds lineup, most economists would tell you that taxes are bad because they will probably lead to businesses leaving your country.

While both economics and baseball can be measured and predicted like weather patterns, they are both cultural systems.  Economics as we know it was created by humans and is continually perpetuated by humans.  It can be recreated with new rules that help to meet everyone's needs.  

As for baseball, I'm pretty happy leaving it the way it is.

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