Re: Data & Predictions (was: "The Fourth Turning" - A Must Read)

Robin Hanson (
Mon, 10 Mar 1997 11:47:25 -0800 (PST)

Hal Finney writes:
>It might be interesting to look at some quantitative data to see how well
>it matches the cycles predicted in TFT. I was thinking of public opinion
>polls where people are asked questions like whether they believe in God,
>or whether they generally feel optimistic about the nation's prospects.

In The Fourth Turning, Strauss & Howe cite many other sources of
data like this, including a 200 page '69 monograph by Peter Harris in
"Perspectives in American History". But it would be great if someone
could collect all this data, so we could graph it all and do some more
careful statistical analysis.

Peter McCluskey writes:
>While Strauss & Howe are worth reading, their predictions do not
>appear to be specific enough (at least in Generations) to be clearly
>IMPORTANT, and I doubt they can produce more specific predictions
>without being wrong on a majority of predictions. ...
>For instance, Klingberg's theory looked quite impressive in the 70s
>when I read it. ... I was eager to
>profit from this theory in 1989 by buying military stocks or Pan Am,
>but found no confirmation of the theory at that time.

If you're looking for specific stocks to buy, I agree that this has
limited value. But in The Fourth Turning they give lots of other
advice that seems pretty valuable to me (assuming they predict well).

>Generations' descriptions of economic cycles (p. 355) is inconsistent
>with Kondratieff wave analysis, and appears to be much less supported
>by the evidence than Kondratieff's theory. I wonder how many other
>claims in Generations would look suspiscious if I checked them out

I think they may well be guilty of overreaching. They give lots of
good support for their basic generational mood theory, but then keep
telling us how everything else under the sun correlates with their
cycle. And they probably haven't looked very carefully at all this
other stuff.

I would have preferred they wrote an academic style book, making fewer
claims and being more careful to defend them. But that doesn't make
them wrong about their core claims.

I encourage you and others to challenge them on such overreaches at
the discussion section their web site. They seem to reply there quite

Robin D. Hanson