Farrar’s law on political commentary

You’ve possibly heard of Moore’s Law; Wikipedia says it is “named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and Intel, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit, and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every two years.”

Of course who can forget Godwin’s law on the internet. Wikipedia explains: “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1”; that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.    

Then there is Occam’s Razor; which states that the more assumptions you have to make, the more unlikely an explanation is. In other words the simpler explanation is usually better.

And of course Cunningham’s Law, which has been discussed here frequently, but also deployed by Steve Joyce when he talked about Labour’s $11.7 billion fiscal hole. Cunningham’s Law states “the best way to get the right answer on the internet is not to ask a question; it’s to post the wrong answer.”

Now there is Farrar’s law with regard to political commentary.

David explains on Facebook:

I’ve found a really good way to triage what columns are worth reading. It almost never fails me.

I start reading it and the moment I hit the word “neo-liberalism” I stop. I know that what follows will be devoid of analysis. It is almost universally used as a term of abuse to signify anything the writer doesn’t like. It is the economic version of Godwin’s Law.

A case in point in this column by Dame Anne Salmond. Just awful tripe.

Farrar’s law can also apply to comments by scientists. Here is Doug Sellman railing against neo-liberalism:

As the evidence of alcohol harms accumulates, especially harm to others, we must continue to urge our elected representatives in government to enact effective legislation in order to help reduce these harms, rather than use outdated neoliberal economic models, which result in doing little more than watch from the sidelines.

Unfortunately, that sentence was the last, so Farrar’s law wouldn’t have saved you from reading a tedious political treatise from a so-called scientist.

Farrar’s law can save you a lot of time. You probably wouldn’t have to read anything on the Standard, The Daily Bog or by Chris Trotter, Anne Salmond, half the press gallery and most of Twitter. I think this law is David Farrar’s single biggest contribution to politics, other than his stellar polling work.



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