Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Experts seek and wield huge power and should always be distrusted

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The World Bank’s chief economist, Paul Romer, has said over the weekend that a popular revolt against experts needed to be taken seriously and that the Brexit referendum result had been partly a reaction against economists who claimed to be making unbiased judgments but were actually taking political or moral positions.
Brexit was a vote against the expert advice of economists. We have to earn back our credibility as professionals who will give an unbiased answer. In political discourse, activists often claim that their position is morally superior and no one seems to care, but when economists did so, voters reacted very negatively, perhaps because they are alert to even a whiff of hypocrisy and they sensed that economists were behaving like activists yet invoking the authority of science.

In these matters, the professional role for the economist is to remain on the sidelines and to stand ready to offer an unbiased answer.
It is not just economists who, while pretending to objective authority, smuggle in their own political or moral positions. Historians do so all the time when they comment on current politics. Read this somewhat hysterical attempt, by an historian called Eileen Kane, to assert that the Trump administration, perhaps the most philo-Semitic in American history, is anti-Semitic. It somehow got published in The Hill. 

Even funnier is this prediction that it's 'pretty much inevitable' that Mr. Trump will stage a coup and overthrow democracy, by Timothy Snyder, a good historian who should know very much better. 


A very moderately intelligent schoolboy could pull it to pieces.


Interestingly, Dr Snyder, plugging his new book about Trump the incipient dictator, says:

The last lesson in “On Tyranny” is to be as courageous as you can. Do you actually care enough about freedom that you would take risks? Do individuals actually care about freedom?
This courage seems to be exactly what his students and colleagues need if they are to stand up to political correctness and the left-wing academic consensus. The same courage is needed in arts faculties in all American and British universities.

Dr. Snyder sails on.

We are still at a stage where protest is not illegal. We’re still at a stage where protest is not lethal. Those are the two big thresholds. We are still on the good side of both of those thresholds and so now is the time you want to pack in as much as you can because you could actually divert things.
When historians comment on present day politics their comments, curiously enough, are not of any more value than anyone else's and sometimes, as in Dr. Snyder's case, of very much less.

Eric Hobsbawm, Tony Judt, Norman Davies, Eric Foner, Niall Ferguson and Mark Marz
ower all wrote nonsense, and not even interesting nonsense, when they wrote about their own times.


Andrew Roberts did not convince me to admire George W. Bush. AJP Taylor misunderstood everything about the Cold War.

Remember, experts are people who seek and wield huge power and should always be distrusted. They care very much less for truth than you'd imagine and much more for self-advancement.

9 comments:

  1. "and they sensed that economists were behaving like activists yet invoking the authority of science.
    “In these matters, the professional role for the economist is to remain on the sidelines and to stand ready to offer an unbiased answer.”


    It's hysterically funny for an economist to talk about invoking the authority of science. Economics is about as scientific as astrology. It's even funnier for an economist to talk about offering unbiased answers. An economist cannot be unbiased, Economics is all ideology. There's no actual science.

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  2. Very true, but couldn't you say the same for journalists? There is so much information out there that there will always be facts and figures to back up your personal veiw -- and it's incredible how many people actually think journalists are objective. If you can accept this it makes everything better as you know you are hearing it from a particular side.

    That's what I like about this blog. It doesn't hide its right wing bias (although Paul will probably squeal in protest at this label). His subjectivity is realiable and refreshing, even though I don't agree with most of what he says.

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    1. Why should I complain that my blog is described as right-wing?

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    2. But on this occasion I'd draw attention to Dr. Snyder's absurdity even if I thought of Mr. Trump as badly as Dr Snyder does, though I'd be very much gentler in that case. There's a lot I don't like about Mr Trump but people like Dr Snyder are the reasons why the President is a necessary evil.

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  3. Snyder is very pro-EU and anti-Brexit. He thinks an 'empire' is needed to confront the Russians.

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  4. "Remember, experts are people who seek and wield huge power and should always be distrusted."

    Right. We should only trust the people who don't know anything about anything. Especially ones like, say, presidents.

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  5. An intellectual is to an intelligent man as a gent is to a gentleman. Stanley Baldwin

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    Replies
    1. Of course we should only trust pundits and taxi drivers because they have all the answers. Likewise treat anyone with less than a first class mind with kindly disdain

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    2. Taxi drivers, it is clear, are much more astute about politics than historians. I cannot imagine a taxi driver talking the nonsense Dr Snyder is spouting. I speak as a man who read history, does not drive a car, uses taxis and talks to taxi drivers a lot.

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