The experts we need..

Andres Velasco has a timely piece on the topic.

Worldwide experts are disliked and trolled. But does that mean we don’t need experts. Of course not. Just that we need more grounded and humbled ones:

In an ideal world, experts would present a menu of policy choices from which citizens wisely choose. But in the real world, citizens have neither the time nor the inclination to sift through complex and tedious policy alternatives. Nor, sadly, do most politicians. Policy wonks are seldom asked for a menu of options; more often, they are asked a simple question: what should we do? And in answering that question, wonks inevitably bring their own values and preferences to bear.

So, as with so many political issues nowadays, it comes down to a matter of identity: can voters identify with the expert or the politician whom the expert advises? Can voters sense that they belong to the same tribe and uphold the same values?

Typically, the answer is no. And there lies the root of the problem. Policy gurus and politicians probably spend too much time with others like them – top civil servants, high-flying journalists, successful businesspeople – and too little time with ordinary voters. This undoubtedly shapes their worldview. As a Spanish-language saying goes, “Dime con quién andas y te dire quién eres”: “Tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are.”

So how can experts regain citizens’ trust? The answer is paradoxical: by becoming intellectually more modest, less beholden to the rarified ways of the ivory tower and the lecture hall, and likelier to listen to people who do not have a PhD. If they could become “humble, competent people on a level with dentists,” as John Maynard Keynes once suggested, then there is at least a chance that voters will identify with the nerdy pointy-heads and find them trustworthy.

The task is urgent, because the world needs credible experts. After all, if a tooth aches, we turn not to a pleasant and well-meaning friend, but to the frightening syringes and drills of the most competent dentist we can find.

Hmmm…+

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