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Discussion of “A probabilistic model for the spatial distribution of party support in multiparty elections”

From 1994. I don’t have much to say about this one. The paper I was discussing (by Samuel Merrill) had already been accepted by the journal—I might even have been a referee, in which case the associate editor had decided to accept the paper over my objections—and the editor gave me the opportunity to publish this dissent which appeared in the same issue with Merrill’s article.

I like the discussion, and it includes some themes that keep showing up: the idea that modeling is important and you need to understand what your model is doing to the data. It’s not enough to just interpret the fitted parameters as is, you need to get in there, get your hands dirty, and examine all aspects of your fit, not just the parts that relate to your hypotheses of interest.

There is a continuity between the criticisms I addressed of that paper in 1994, and our recent criticisms of some applied models, for example of that regression estimate of the health effects of air pollution in China.

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