A Good Point Seldom Made about "Experts"

I think via Tyler Cowen, this abstract:

How can political actors identify which putative expert is truly expert, given that any putative expert may be wrong about a given policy question; given that experts may therefore disagree with one another; and given that other members of the polity, being non-expert, can neither reliably adjudicate inter-expert disagreement nor detect when a consensus of experts is misguided? This would not be an important question if the problems dealt with by politics were usually simple ones, in the sense that the answer to them is self-evident. But to the extent that political problems are complex, expertise is required to answer them—although if such expertise exists, we are unlikely to know who has it.

  • Dan Wendlick

    I'd go one step further, that problems get sent to the political process precisely because they are not amenable to being solved by experts. The choice of fuels for a rocket, the operating pressure of a steam turbine, or the thickness of a submarine pressure hull can all be calculated empirically, and thus there is no need to subject them to a vote of a deliberative legislative body. However, when you get into questions like what the nation's spending priorities should be or what the country's immigration policy should be, there are so many different variables that could be optimized, that any solution regarded as optimal by some is likely to be considered unacceptable by others. It's not just a matter of there being the "unknown unknowns", it's that the problem itself cannot be defined in such a manner that a single optimization point can be defined.

  • Henry Chinaski

    Whenever somebody states that all experts agree on something, I have to think of this gem from The Onion
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Uq9pp586AE

  • obloodyhell

    1) Find out if the "expert" feels s/he should have a valid "expert" opinion on topics which they have no expertise in
    2) Find out if the "expert" has ever made claims that were pro-party line but known false (Paul Krugman is a prime example of this, having promoted the Broken Window Fallacy at least twice in public)
    3) Contrast their positions with that of other known experts, see if there's any pattern such as favoring whatever a party's position is.

    This can often reveal how trustworthy an "expert" is likely to be.

  • Mercury

    In reality there really is no such thing as political expertise, only common sense and the best solutions to most political problems are in fact self-evident. To paraphrase Bill Buckley, you'd rather be governed by the first 100 people in the Boston phone book than by the faculty of Harvard.

    Trump is an idiot, fringe-hugging reactionary and as far from a political expert as you can be right? I mean, that's what all the experts say.

    So, I guess this is absolutely un-possible: http://dailycaller.com/2018/01/22/poll-majority-of-americans-agree-with-trump-on-daca-immigration/

  • MDBurk2754

    For the political actor, it's anything BUT necessary to be able to id which expert is expert, incompetent, etc. What matters most to him is HIS perceived expertise on the part of his voters who, depending on the issue, are even less able to determine his expertise as he is the (original) expert.

  • SamWah

    Paullie "The Beard" Krugman is an EXCELLENT example!

  • CC

    Such problems are not merely complex, but are subject to value judgements. Different people value, fear, or want different things. The political process is supposed to balance what most of the people want. The problem recently has been that whoever is in charge (mostly the Left) does not care to protect the minority (in the political not racial sense) and thus ram through what they want regardless of who objects or who gets hurt-Obamacare being a great example.
    It should also be kept in mind but rarely is that not all problems are solvable or at least not by government. Eliminating poverty or homelessness can never happen because a small portion of the population will always have recently had bad luck, will be crazy, lazy or drugged out. As stated it is not solvable. Growing the economy so there are more opportunities IS a solvable problem, as has recently happened. It is interesting that the Left has insisted that growing the economy can't happen ("we can't drill our way to energy independence" comes to mind) and all that can be done is to take more from the rich and give it to the poor--a zero-sum game view of life.