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False Certainty

- Abstract

To know the future with certainty is the most ardent desire of humankind. It’s terrifying to think the future isn’t knowable, and so we do what we can to reduce the fear. The problem these days is that fewer and fewer people can stake a believable claim to being a soothsayer. And we have grown terribly dependent on those who speak and write with absolute assurance about where we’re going.

The questions that most of us who write about politics and policy are asked more than any other begin with the words: “What do you think is going to happen with?.?.?.” You can fill in the rest: the health-care bill, or the 2010 election, or cap-and-trade. What our interlocutors want from us is confidence, assurance; they think that since we do this sort of thing for a living, we can offer them an anchor in unsteady waters. That may be truer than ever today, even though the record of the recent past should teach us all that prognosticators are not to be trusted.

About the Author

John Podhoretz is editor of COMMENTARY.