Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. The Three Most Important Words in the English Language

 

Oh, I know what you sappy sentimentalists are thinking: “I love you.” But, you would be wrong! How embarrassing.

The three most important words in the English language are: “I don’t know.” Okay, technically that’s four words with a contraction in the middle, smarty pants.

But, seriously, with the election coming up and almost no one’s predictions playing out in the 2016 election — yeah, I’m looking at you Mr. “the stock market will never recover” Paul Krugman, and I quote:

It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?

Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never. 

It would seem a little intellectual humility is in order. Clearly, “experts” don’t know as much as they think they do about the economy, the stock market, the climate (someone tell Greta; you can find her at Davos), international relations, trade, or national politics. 

The web of trust between the expert class and the rest of us is in tatters. It can start being restored by admitting, “I don’t know,” and then repeating the next most important three words: “I was wrong.” Two phrases you’ll never hear from the Left, despite it being willfully ignorant and wrong about almost everything.

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  1. Arahant Member

    The Donald is also not a big fan of “I was wrong.” NTTAWWT, of course.

    • #1
    • January 23, 2020, at 12:34 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  2. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    The Donald is also not a big fan of “I was wrong.” NTTAWWT, of course.

    That’s because he’s so seldom wrong! ;-)

    • #2
    • January 23, 2020, at 12:39 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  3. Annefy Member

    “I am sorry” should at least make the top five.

    • #3
    • January 23, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    I completely agree, WC! Saying “I don’t know” is a sign of weakness and stupidity to the elite class: there must always be some answer! When you believe you are smart and knowledgeable and you are certain that everyone else must believe you are, too, there’s no room for uncertainty! And the “I was wrong” is even worse. Never let ’em see you sweat.

    Good post!

    • #4
    • January 23, 2020, at 1:13 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  5. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    I thought the three most important words were “it is benign” or “it’s benign” if you prefer. Prolly depends on whether or not you’ve had a tumor.

    • #5
    • January 23, 2020, at 2:02 PM PST
    • 6 likes
  6. Mark Camp Member

    Western Chauvinist: Clearly, “experts” don’t know as much as they think they do about the economy, the stock market, the climate (someone tell Greta — you can find her at Davos), international relations, trade, or national politics.

    In some of these cases I think the opposite.

    That current events make it ever more clear that experts (Thomas Sowell, Ludwig von Mises, and other scientists, for example) know as exactly as much as they think they do, and much more than the leftist/rightist-dominated media/political/academic establishment know, about

    • the stock market
    • the climate, and
    • trade.

    Regarding the other two subjects–international relations and national politics, no opinion. These aren’t areas where simple intelligence and knowledge of history is necessary and sufficient.

    • #6
    • January 23, 2020, at 2:42 PM PST
    • 1 like
  7. Lilly B Coolidge

    But saying I don’t know can be very dangerous.

    https://youtu.be/pWS8Mg-JWSg

     

    • #7
    • January 23, 2020, at 3:12 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  8. Barfly Member

    I like “Thy will be done.” But then I’m also partial to “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law.”

    • #8
    • January 23, 2020, at 5:04 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  9. Reese Member
    Reese Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    @LillyB

    But saying I don’t know can be very dangerous.

    I thought the clip would be Mr. Hand and Spicoli. But yours was far out, too. 

    • #9
    • January 23, 2020, at 6:36 PM PST
    • 1 like
  10. TBA Coolidge
    TBA

    Prognosticators who aren’t always right are quickly fired. 

    So the line is that they are always right, or at least never wrong. Or they just aren’t right yet. Or their prediction was rendered void by an unforeseen change. 

    Most astrologers simply hype their ‘wins’ and don’t discuss their losses. 

    And one can always move the goalposts by claiming that the economy isn’t good for [subset] and is therefore bad. 

    Krugman is the NYT’s temple priest and is thus infallible. 

    • #10
    • January 23, 2020, at 6:46 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. OldPhil Coolidge

    “Orange man bad”

    Or so I’ve heard.

    • #11
    • January 23, 2020, at 7:20 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  12. Manny Member

    We engineers know that most of the time we don’t know!

    • #12
    • January 23, 2020, at 8:44 PM PST
    • 8 likes
  13. Henry Castaigne Member

    Hold my beer. 

    • #13
    • January 23, 2020, at 9:44 PM PST
    • 9 likes
  14. Hartmann von Aue Member

    An Iranian friend of mine said the most important things you can say in marriage are also the most important things you can say in life: “I love you. I’m sorry. Forgive me. Thank you.”

     

    • #14
    • January 23, 2020, at 11:12 PM PST
    • 7 likes
  15. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Manny (View Comment):

    We engineers know that most of the time we don’t know!

    Engineers have to make things work, not just theorize about them. It’s It can be very humbling. It isn’t always.

    • #15
    • January 24, 2020, at 5:05 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  16. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist: Clearly, “experts” don’t know as much as they think they do about the economy, the stock market, the climate (someone tell Greta — you can find her at Davos), international relations, trade, or national politics.

    In some of these cases I think the opposite.

    That current events make it ever more clear that experts (Thomas Sowell, Ludwig von Mises, and other scientists, for example) know as exactly as much as they think they do, and much more than the leftist/rightist-dominated media/political/academic establishment know, about

    • the stock market
    • the climate, and
    • trade.

    Regarding the other two subjects–international relations and national politics, no opinion. These aren’t areas where simple intelligence and knowledge of history is necessary and sufficient.

    Thomas Sowell and company are trustworthy sources because they’ll tell you when they don’t know. Progressives have no humility, intellectual or otherwise, and never admit to their ignorance or mistakes. Almost never. Can’t think of an exception.

    • #16
    • January 24, 2020, at 5:34 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  17. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Henry Castaigne (View Comment):

    Hold my beer.

    Hahahahaa! Henry! Those are the three most entertaining words in the English language!

    • #17
    • January 24, 2020, at 5:40 AM PST
    • 6 likes
  18. Suspira Member

    Western Chauvinist: The web of trust between the expert class and the rest of us is in tatters. It can start being restored by admitting, “I don’t know,” and then repeating the next most important three words: “I was wrong.”

    I agree almost completely. Here’s my reservation: Voters seem to demand answers and “I don’t know” isn’t reassuring, and a politician who admits to being wrong is a politician looking for work in the private sector. 

    Am I wrong about this? I’d love to say “I was wrong.”

    • #18
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:36 AM PST
    • 1 like
  19. Skyler Coolidge

    I will. 

    • #19
    • January 24, 2020, at 7:48 AM PST
    • 1 like
  20. Manny Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Manny (View Comment):

    We engineers know that most of the time we don’t know!

    Engineers have to make things work, not just theorize about them. It’s It can be very humbling. It isn’t always.

    I freely admit that even with a good disciplined design process in an integrated product team approach, we still got the ##**@& design screwed up. Not always thank God, but enough to keep us humble

     

    • #20
    • January 24, 2020, at 8:07 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  21. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist: The web of trust between the expert class and the rest of us is in tatters. It can start being restored by admitting, “I don’t know,” and then repeating the next most important three words: “I was wrong.”

    I agree almost completely. Here’s my reservation: Voters seem to demand answers and “I don’t know” isn’t reassuring, and a politician who admits to being wrong is a politician looking for work in the private sector.

    Am I wrong about this? I’d love to say “I was wrong.”

    From political pundits: “I don’t know how the 2020 election is going to turn out.”

    From economists and “free” trade experts: “I don’t know that previous trade practices (with China, the EU, …) are the best we can do.”

    Scientists should be saying, “I don’t know that human produced carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change — or even a significant factor.” “I don’t even know whether we might be headed into another ice age, for that matter.”

    Politicians: “I don’t know what economic equality looks like. Never seen it before.”

    To which can be added in each case, “and neither do you!” [not you, personally, but anybody.]

    As the old saying goes, there are only two things we can be certain of in a complex world: death and taxes. 

    • #21
    • January 24, 2020, at 9:04 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  22. Old Bathos Moderator

    I think “on the other hand” is probably a more important phrase. A pundit needs to predict all possible outcomes to ensure grounds for taking credit.

    I recall how Dick Morris was largely driven off the airwaves in disgrace after his failed prediction of a Romney victory in 2012. In contrast, those who told us of the certainty of Hillary’s win, Mueller finding collusion and a long litany of failed predictions of Trumpian disaster all still have jobs.

    • #22
    • January 24, 2020, at 9:46 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  23. Bill Nelson Member

    Gimme your stuff.

    • #23
    • January 24, 2020, at 10:02 AM PST
    • 5 likes
  24. Mark Camp Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Suspira (View Comment):

    Western Chauvinist: The web of trust between the expert class and the rest of us is in tatters. It can start being restored by admitting, “I don’t know,” and then repeating the next most important three words: “I was wrong.”

    I agree almost completely. Here’s my reservation: Voters seem to demand answers and “I don’t know” isn’t reassuring, and a politician who admits to being wrong is a politician looking for work in the private sector.

    Am I wrong about this? I’d love to say “I was wrong.”

    From political pundits: “I don’t know how the 2020 election is going to turn out.”

    From economists and “free” trade experts: “I don’t know that previous trade practices (with China, the EU, …) are the best we can do.”

    Scientists should be saying, “I don’t know that human produced carbon dioxide is the main driver of climate change — or even a significant factor.” “I don’t even know whether we might be headed into another ice age, for that matter.”

    Politicians: “I don’t know what economic equality looks like. Never seen it before.”

    To which can be added in each case, “and neither do you!” [not you, personally, but anybody.]

    As the old saying goes, there are only two things we can be certain of in a complex world: death and taxes.

    An economic expert can predict with certainty that violation of the property rights will result in the wealth of the nation being less than it would have been. If politicians only listened to that one prediction, any country would be much better off.

    If folks wish to ridicule economic scientists because they cannot answer any question outside the domain of economics, then have at it: we have no defense. Economists can’t tell you how to conduct foreign policy, or fight a war, or resolve a moral question. But to me, it isn’t the economists who are made to appear ridiculous by these attacks.

    • #24
    • January 24, 2020, at 11:26 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  25. Western Chauvinist Member
    Western Chauvinist Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    An economic expert can predict with certainty that violation of the property rights will result in the wealth of the nation being less than it would have been. If politicians only listened to that one prediction, any country would be much better off.

    I didn’t mean to attack economic experts generally. Just the ones who are wrong! I agree with the above and am confident it can be shown with historical evidence. My point is many, many “experts” — especially the ones clamoring to trade out our liberty for more government power — have lost all credibility by either failing to admit their mistakes or by putting lipstick on the pig of their ideology.

    No need for you to be defensive if you’re not doing that.

    • #25
    • January 24, 2020, at 11:44 AM PST
    • 3 likes
  26. Mark Camp Member

    Western Chauvinist (View Comment):

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    An economic expert can predict with certainty that violation of the property rights will result in the wealth of the nation being less than it would have been. If politicians only listened to that one prediction, any country would be much better off.

    I agree with the above and am confident it can be shown with historical evidence.

    It can’t. 

    That’s why politicians never accept advice from economics experts, only from mathematicians with PhDs in Economics who’ve often never even read, much less understood, any of the major works of the economists in the scientific tradition since Menger.

    • #26
    • January 24, 2020, at 12:11 PM PST
    • 1 like
  27. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member

    I like the post, WC. 

    There are three more important words. You’re going to agree with me. Jesus is Lord.

    • #27
    • January 24, 2020, at 5:32 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  28. Bill Nelson Member

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I like the post, WC.

    There are three more important words. You’re going to agree with me. Jesus is Lord.

    God is dead. – Friedrich Nietzsche

    Nietzsche is dead. – God

    • #28
    • January 27, 2020, at 7:50 AM PST
    • 4 likes
  29. Manny Member

    Bill Nelson (View Comment):

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):

    I like the post, WC.

    There are three more important words. You’re going to agree with me. Jesus is Lord.

    God is dead. – Friedrich Nietzsche

    Nietzsche is dead. – God

    Hahaha! Fantastic. I have to remember that. :)

    • #29
    • January 28, 2020, at 11:59 AM PST
    • 1 like
  30. Bill Nelson Member

    I saw that written on a sidewalk when I was in college. They were about 10 feet apart.

     

    • #30
    • January 28, 2020, at 12:49 PM PST
    • 3 likes