Sebastian Mallaby: The cult of the expert – and how it collapsed


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

Related Post Roulette

6 Responses

  1. Avatar Dark Matter says:

    “Experts” have their place, but we’ve yet to find a really good solution for the agency problem (i.e. acting on his own interests rather than mine, be it regulatory capture or personal enrichment), and so called experts can sharply disagree.

    Many of the decisions “experts” are supposed to make come down to “how should I live my life”. Should my taxes increase to pay for “X”? How much growth am I willing to sacrifice for entitlements/safety/global warming/etc? These are things best left up to the political process.

    Worse, the government is a massive tool, it’s tempting to use it to solve the problem of the moment, but it’s benefits are often overstated and it’s costs hidden. Over promising and under delivering is the norm.

    Democracy is a terrible system whose saving grace is all the others are worse, “rule by experts” included.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    And so, by the turn of the 21st century, a new elite consensus had emerged: democracy had to be managed.

    I’m less than halfway thru the full article, and probably won’t finish it, but I hope there’s better context later on than this historically ignorant statement.

    The elite consensus that democracy has to be managed was the very thing, the only thing, the dudes in Philly hammering out the US Constitution in 1787 agreed on.

    Then the next wave of this elite consensus that democracy had to be managed happened at the turn of the 20th century. Whence the Progressive Era, then FDR’s whole shebang.

    so, ‘new’ elite consensus? Nope, not new. And, really, cause Bush 43 did squeak his way into the White House, not a consensus either.

    (and his Bernanke narrative is missing some key points that alter that narrative – the main one is that there was serious pushback from both left and right when Obama re-nominated him for the Fed chair appointment. Not enough for the Senate to reject the nomination, but enough to make his confirmation vote the narrowest of any Fed chair ever, if I recall correctly)Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      Don’t forget Edward Bernays!

      A snip from his book Propaganda:

      The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.

      Add: EB et al were doing this stuff as early as the 19-teens, precisely because elites determined that democracy had to be managed.Report

  3. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    I keep thinking of the people of the 16-18th centuries, when the central political question was the rivalry between Catholicism and Protestantism.

    That rivalry colored every political decision in Europe, every minor skirmish and local petty feud. Although ostensibly a mere matter of theological dispute, the rivalry was actually between rival ethnic tribes, national identities, historic seats of power.

    That was what we had in the 20th century, the entire century was colored by the the epic struggle of Socialism and Capitalism, two dueling political theories that while ostensibly mere economic theories, were actually between ethnic and national rivalries, historic grievances and blood feuds.

    As hard as it would be for a 16th century Englishman to understand a world in which Catholicism and Protestantism were merely two mildly different Sunday habits, we have a hard time grasping a world in which the issue of a demand or command economy is not the essential cleaving line between world views.When Socialism fell, so did Capitalism, at least as the defining opposite pole.

    We are at ebb tide, when there is realignment and confusion, when the old lines are gone and the new ones not yet formed.Report