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The Surprise Pay-Off Of Trial And Error In Business, Public Policy, and Society

Jim Manzi
Basic Books 2012 9780465023240

About the Book

How do we know which social and economic policies work, which should be continued, and which should be changed? Too often, we allow policies to be guided either by inflexible ideology or random desperation. Instead of identifying errors and pitfalls beforehand, we wait until it’s too late to correct matters, or hold out for perfection instead of locating and pursuing what trial-and-error tells us is the best possible option.

Jim Manzi founded a global software company that pioneered the development of experimental methods now used by dozens of the world’s largest corporations to set prices, pick new products, and identify and market to customers.

In Uncontrolled, he argues that these same methods can be highly effective in addressing our most important social issues, ranging from improving our schools to increasing economic growth to reducing crime. Drawing on both his professional experiences and a systematic review of thousands of randomized business and social experiments, he provides compelling evidence that most widely-touted ideas for improving schools, government, businesses, and other complex human institutions don’t work. Further, those ideas that do work usually provide more limited benefits than their advocates claim. Manzi identifies a short list of specific programs, such as welfare-to-work, charter schools, and community policing, that have been shown to beat these odds, and argues for substantial investment in them.

Uncontrolled offers an innovative approach to making decisions in business, economics, and politics. It acknowledges the limits of our ability to conquer uncertainty, while tenaciously seeking new opportunities for improvement. In this powerful and masterfully argued book, Jim Manzi shows that by combining a skeptical mindset with careful experiments, we can create more effective social and economic policies

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About the Author

Jim Manzi is the founder and chairman of Applied Predictive Technologies, a global provider of predictive analytics software. Previously, he was a corporate strategy consultant with Strategic Planning Associates, and a staff member at AT&T Laboratories. He is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and a contributing editor at National Review, and he serves on a number of corporate and nonprofit boards. Mr. Manzi holds an SB in mathematics from MIT, and was a Dean's Fellow in the doctoral program at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He currently lives in Paris and London

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Interview With Jim Manzi: From Business to Politics, Experimenters Win, James Poulos,

The Science of Policy, Ronald Bailey, The American Conservative.

Great Experiments, Arnold Kling, National Review.

"National Review.

"In his impressive first book, Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society, entrepreneur/intellectual Jim Manzi has the makings of an airport best seller in the genre of Steven Levitt’s Freakonomics and Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink. Indeed, Uncontrolled is far more reliable than those two sometimes-dubious tomes." Steve Sailer, Taki's Magazine Online.

" a vigorous book, pulsing with ideas." Trevor Butterworth, Wall Street Journal.

Development Impact, David McKenzie, World Bank.

"This is a truly stimulating book..."Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution.

Is Our Adults Learning?, David Brooks, New York Times. (This review was reposted on Ezra Klein's Washington Post Wonkblog, and on

How Do We Know?, Eric A. Posner, The New Republic's "The Book" blog. (This review was reposted on David Frum's Daily Beast blog.)

INTERVIEW: America Is Out of Control, Nick Schulz, AEI's The American.

Liberal Nostalgiacs Don't Understand Jobs of the Future, Michael Barrone, RealClearPolitics.

Recommended Reading, The Weekly Standard.

"It's a fresh, dense and fascinating exploration of what the policy implications of a true "conservatism of doubt" would mean. I hope it can jumpstart a conservative intellectual renaissance." Andrew Sullivan

Dinner with Jim Manzi, Arnold Kling, EconLog.


Dennis Prager Show (KRLA/Nationally Syndicated) – Live, 1 hour interview, 7/3/12

Bill Bennett's Morning in America (Salem Radio Network) – Live, 30 minute interview, 7/11/12

Manzi on Knowledge, Policy, and Uncontrolled, Russ Robers, EconTalk, 6-18-12

Bloomberg Surveillance (Bloomberg Radio) – Book/FT op-ed Mention, 6/11/12

For Your Ears Only (Radio America) – Live, 7-9 minute Interview, 6/9/12

Bloomberg Surveillance (Bloomberg Radio) – Live, 30 minute Interview, 6/8/12

The Drive Home (America’s Radio News Network) – Live, 5 minute interview, 6/6/12

Jim Manzi discusses Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society; Plus: American Dream Goin' South and California's Proposed Cigarette Tax, This Week on Gadfly Radio, 5-21-12

Jim Manzi on Uncontrolled: The Surprising Payoff of Trial-and-Error for Business, Politics, and Society; Plus: California's Budget Woes and the Cigarette Tax, 5-21-12

WYNYC's "Brian Lehrer Show", 5-11-12


Nightly Business Report (Natl. Syndicated) – Interview, book mention, 7-17-12

The Big Picture with Thom Hartmann (RT-TV) – Live, 30 minute interview, 7-12-12

BookTV (C-SPAN2) – Taped 6/7 event (re-airing 7/8; 7/15), 7-7-12

Economic Edge (Bloomberg TV) – Live interview, 6-22-12

Uncommon Knowledge, 6-12-12


Surveillance Midday (Bloomberg TV) – Live 20 minute interview, 6-8-12

Dylan Ratigan (MSNBC) – Live interview, 6-7-12

First Business (Nationally Syndicated) – Taped, 5 minute interview (taping 6/4), 6-5-12

Nightly Business Report (Natl. Syndicated) – Taped interview (taping 5/24), 5/24/12

MSNBC's "The Dylan Ratigan Show", 5-2-12

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