So What Has Happened To Expertise

When you are an expert in something you have to work to maintain credibility.  That means that when you make a judgment call and give information to somebody that is relying on your expertise to address their problems. Above all an expert needs to be completely honest, show how they came to their answers and admit when they make a mistake.

Glenn Reynolds posted this article about the “experts” who by and large have been given the responsibility of creating domestic and foreign policy since about 1965 or so.


Well, it’s certainly true that the “experts” don’t have the kind of authority that they possessed in the decade or two following World War II. Back then, the experts had given us vaccines, antibiotics, jet airplanes, nuclear power and space flight. The idea that they might really know best seemed pretty plausible.

But it also seems pretty plausible that Americans might look back on the last 50 years and say, “What have experts done for us lately?” Not only have the experts failed to deliver on the moon bases and flying cars they promised back in the day, but their track record in general is looking a lot spottier than it was in, say, 1965.

It was the experts — characterized in terms of their self-image by David Halberstam in The Best and the Brightest  who brought us the twin debacles of the Vietnam War, which we lost, and the War On Poverty, where we spent trillions and certainly didn’t win. In both cases, confident assertions by highly credentialed authorities foundered upon reality, at a dramatic cost in blood and treasure. Mostly other people’s blood and treasure.

And these are not isolated failures. The history of government nutritional advice from the 1960s to the present is an appalling one: The advice of “experts” was frequently wrong, and sometimes bought-and-paid-for by special interests, but always delivered with an air of unchallengeable certainty…

It was experts who brought us the housing bubble and the subprime crisis. It was experts who botched the Obamacare rollout. And, of course, the experts didn’t see Brexit coming, and seem to have responded mostly with injured pride and assaults on the intelligence of the electorate, rather than with constructive solutions.

By its fruit the tree is known, and the tree of expertise hasn’t been doing well lately. As Nassim Taleb recently observed: “With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers.”

Then there’s the problem that, somehow, over the past half-century or so the educated classes that make up the “expert” demographic seem to have been doing pretty well, even as so many ordinary folks, in America and throughout the West, have seen their fortunes decaying. Is it any surprise that claims to authority in the form of “expertise” don’t carry the same weight that they once did?

If experts want to reclaim a position of authority, they need to make a few changes. First, they should make sure they know what they’re talking about, and they shouldn’t talk about things where their knowledge isn’t solid. Second, they should be appropriately modest in their claims of authority. And, third, they should check their egos. It doesn’t matter what your SAT scores were, voters are under no obligation to listen to you unless they find what you say persuasive.

The problem that the current crop of experts has is that they have to live the with the failures of all the experts that went before.  The fact is that they promised us peace and prosperity and they have failed to deliver either.  In fact in the Obama Administration, filled from top to bottom with very credentialed experts creating policies like the ACA that affect millions of people those polices were failures almost immediately. Which, apparently from the way Mr. Gruber here is speaking in the class was he’s teaching, they should have known right from the start.

Yet long after the disasters that have helped to impoverish and reduce healthcare availability for millions Gruber still defends the program. See above where I point out that an expert has be honest, stick to the truth, and above all admit the mistake and try to correct it.  Instead we get policy driven by a failed narrative that fail utterly. To be replaced by the next go around accompani3ee with stricter controls to make things work “better” this time while ignoring the key facts that were readily available.
As the presidential campaign season approaches, all the Democrat candidates are advocating some form of government health care for all. Yet you only have to look at the results of the last go around and say to yourself, If these people messed things up so badly the last time, why should we think that the “experts” won’t mess things up again?

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