The Epic Failure Of Modern Experts
And they wonder why no one trusts them
There’s a debate in the comments section here about whether Americans have gotten suddenly dumber, leading them to elect populist presidents and refuse vaccines. I started to weigh in but quickly realized that the story is broader and deeper than just vaccines and Donald Trump.
So here’s some context:
Starting in the 1960s, the US embraced a 3,000-year-old idea from Plato’s Republic, in which the ideal government would be run by the best possible person — a “philosopher king” who was both wise and good. In modern terms, an expert.
Starting with John Kennedy’s celebration of artistic and scientific excellence in the White House and continuing through the Vietnam War’s “best and brightest” leadership, we invented what later came to be called the “Ph.D. standard” in which people with advanced degrees from prestigious schools and records of success in a given field were put in charge of big parts of the government and economy — on the assumption that they were smart enough to actively manage things like financial markets and wars.
They failed miserably, screwing up everything they touched and leaving us with a corrupt, indebted world one itchy trigger finger away from nuclear armageddon. Or, seen through a different lens, they efficiently served their (Ivy League educated, highly credentialed) class by enriching the 99% while impoverishing what was once the middle class.
Prior to 1971, the world was on a version of the gold standard that, without getting bogged down in the details, limited the amount of currency countries could create, thereby restraining governments’ more idiotically expensive impulses.
Then governments decided they could do a better job of managing their currencies than could an inert, arbitrary, barbarous rock. So they broke the link with gold and handed monetary policy to a generation of economists who, being brilliant and accomplished, would manage the world’s finances sagaciously, raising and lowering interest rates and the money supply just enough to produce steady non-inflationary growth, basically forever.
The result? The dollar’s purchasing power plunged while debt at every level of every major country soared. The amplitude of booms and busts increased to the point where the next bust might be fatal.
The Federal Reserve’s economists couldn’t have done worse if they were blind monkeys pulling random levers to get treats. Or, looking through that other lens, they served their class brilliantly by using artificially-low interest rates and various other forms of corruption to enrich banks and corporations, such that Wall Street now owns the world and the average person can’t afford to buy a house. Either way, they emphatically did not achieve the promised high-growth, low-inflation Nirvana.
In the1980s and 1990s, we handed off trade policy to a different group of economists and other specialists who cut free trade deals with every country in sight, apparently unaware that American workers couldn’t compete with their $1-an-hour Chinese counterparts. The experts promised that free trade would benefit everyone by raising efficiency and lowering prices. What it actually did was crush millions of formerly unionized workers while enriching the multinationals that moved US factories to China for the (highly profitable) cheap labor.
The past two decades have seen a collapse in US living standards, political turmoil as a growing number of voters choose candidates who promise to tear the old system out by the roots, and the implosion of the old globalized world before anything concrete evolves to replace it. Expect a decade of inflation and supply chain chaos as the work of the globalist trade experts is swept away.
War and foreign policy
Instead of learning from the failure of the Vietnam War, U.S. foreign policy has become even more erratic and corrupt as each new generation of experts has blundered around the world (especially the Middle East) breaking things and killing innocents, making exponentially more enemies, and lying about all kinds of war crimes and management abuses.
Now the Pentagon/State Department Russia/China experts have decided that it’s time for a two-front World War III against those other two nuclear powers. Who gains from this? No one, except the arms makers and their affiliated politicians.
Three short years ago most Americans considered the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the rest of the public health establishment to be an exception to the growing sense that most experts were incompetent and/or corrupt.
But during the pandemic, the health establishment turned out to be if anything worse than the Fed’s economists or the Pentagon’s chicken hawks. They locked down schools unnecessarily, destroyed thousands of small businesses, and coerced young people into taking experimental vaccines that later turned out to be unnecessary. They contradicted each other in public and apparently lied about things like gain-of-function research and natural immunity. Some typical headlines:
Now people who once thought doctors could be trusted and vaccines were generally a good thing are questioning those beliefs. And until convinced otherwise, they’re not vaccinating their kids. Is that a public health problem? Maybe, but it’s also completely understandable after two years of pandemic chaos.
The (philosopher) king is dying
We can debate whether the people running America’s big systems are incompetent morons or brilliant soldiers in the war for super-rich supremacy. But either way, they’re not to be trusted.
It took five decades, thousands of lives, and trillions of dollars, but the idea of the philosopher king is finally dying. Americans did not get dumber. They learned from their experience and adjusted their attitudes accordingly. They’re buying gold because they don’t trust the Fed. They’re planting gardens because they don’t trust Big Food. They’re researching vaccines and accepting only those with proven (not experimental or fictitious) safety and efficacy. They’re voting for candidates who promise to control immigration, bring back factory jobs, avoid foreign wars, and eliminate medical coercion.
If only our experts had the same good sense and flexibility.
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