Public Policy by Bayesian Model?

Discussion of “Bayesian Models and Methods in Public Policy and Government Settings” by S. E. Fienberg by David J. Hand.


Fienberg convincingly demonstrates that Bayesian models and methods represent a powerful approach to squeezing illumination from data in public policy settings. However, no school of inference is without its weaknesses, and, in the face of the ambiguities, uncertainties, and poorly posed questions of the real world, perhaps we should not expect to find a formally correct inferential strategy which can be universally applied, whatever the nature of the question: we should not expect to be able to identify a “norm” approach. An analogy is made between George Box’s “no models are right, but some are useful,” and inferential systems.

A cautionary tale that reaches beyond Bayesian models. It is very often (always?) the case that models find the object of investigation.

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