Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Unpredictable, That's What We Are

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Unpredictable, That's What We Are

Article excerpt

NEVER predict anything, especially the future," Sam Goldwyn once said.

Wise advice for publications that trade on dignity and gravitas - not least The Economist, which imprudently lets its hair down each December and publishes its forecast for the following year.

But just how accurate were The Economist's forecasts for the world in 2001?

For all the great minds behind it, this annual volume has not scored much better this year than Old Moore's Almanack, that rather less rigorous 404-year-old astrological guide.

The editor of The Economist's 2001 preview, former Kensington Tory MP Dudley Fishburn, began his keynote foreword with something of an own goal: "2001 will be a year in which the world becomes a richer and sharply more decent place."

He predicted correctly that China would join the World Trade Organisation (it happened quietly earlier this month), but incorrectly guessed that third-generation mobile phones were "a certainty" for the next 12 months.

Outside Japan, they are still some way off.

Fishburn more perceptively warned of the dangers of "the growing multitude of angry, unemployed young men" in Mediterranean Arab countries. "Add an irascible Israel into this cauldron of testosterone and Europe's southern border will surely be the world's most unsettled place," he wrote. Right, and some-It's time for The Economist's annual attempt to predict the coming year.

So how did it do last year? So so - but where was 11 September, asks Jonathan Margolis not right. Fishburn's piece on Britain in 2001 similarly displayed how lame the most thoughtful prediction can become in the face of events: he posited above all a sharp increase in employment. What a difference an "un" makes to the growing numbers now being fired.

Elsewhere, The Economist rather rashly predicted an 80 per cent turnout in the General Election that Anthony King, professor of government at Essex University, said would take place on 3 May. …

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