Thursday, January 12, 2017

Real and Fake Experts

Against the Tyranny of the So-Called Experts
By Kurt Schlichter

Townhall – January 9, 2017 -- America’s elite – that collection of puffed up mediocrities who until recently held the undisputed command of the heights of our politics and culture – is in crisis. Its unbroken track record of failure has finally stirred the rest of America from its coma. The normals are now hella woke, and the elitists are being hella rejected. Unused to accountability, the elite is in a tizzy over the way people are not only blaming it for its myriad failures but are taking concrete steps to restrict its power. It’s not just electing Donald Trump. It’s ignoring the media, ignoring Hollywood stars, and ignoring the cabal of “experts” who presume to tell us how to live.

And it’s about time.

The best thing about being a member of the elite is that you really don’t have to do anything to become one. You can be born one – no matter how dumb or drug-addled you are, if you’re a Kennedy you’re elite regardless of how many times you blow the bar exam. Or you can become one by getting into the right school – remember, a Harvard degree does not mean you did well at Harvard. Everyone at Harvard does well – an “A” is a participation trophy. It’s getting in that matters, and getting in depends, in significant part, on who you are. Elite mom and dad, welcome to the Ivy League.

The elites, having been called out for their failure, are now trying to rebrand themselves as “experts.” It’s important to distinguish “elites” from “experts.” Elites want to be seen as experts because an expert is assumed to actually know something and to have some sort of technical skill. To be elite, you just have to be accepted as elite. That’s why elitists fudge the terms; they want the credibility of being experts without actually having to do what a real expert does.

Take, for example, the notorious New Yorker cartoon of the passenger on the plane electing himself pilot. The point, which the elitists think is brilliant, is that the running of government should be left to the experts without the participation of you people. Of course, pilots are trained in detailed technical skills and, critically, are accountable for their performance. If they fail, they get fired – or worse. [Insert Kennedy pilot joke here] If an elitist fails at an important job, she gets nominated for president. See the difference?

The point they want to make is that we should submit to their “expert” (really, elite) guidance, since we are unfit to determine our own destiny. Yet, when piloting this country over the last couple decades, these elites have flown the plane straight into the ground. Real experts are held accountable, but elites never are. Their landing is always soft – it’s never the elites who suffer while the normal prosper, only the other way around. The elitists always win – that’s why they are called “elite.”

Remember, whenever anyone tells you to blindly give up your input and rely on an “expert,” you stand a good chance of being scammed. Take a doctor. Doctors have a hard skill. They go through a lot of training. And medical malpractice kills about 98,000 people per year. Doctors are experts, but they are not perfect. No expert is. Nor are they perfectly disinterested technicians. A lot of doctors are terrible people – the worst divorces lawyers deal with are doctor divorces. Don’t confuse expertise with morality.

Like all humans, experts are self-interested. That’s why some doctors complain when their patients read up on their symptoms in Google. “Gosh, these peons are presuming to gain access to my secret knowledge – how dare they!” Yes – thanks to technology, much of what doctors do (which is maintain and use knowledge – many never touch a scalpel) can be done by normals on line. You have a symptom and you go to Web MD and often it answers your question – “Eww, that weird lump is a sebaceous cyst, not melanoma.”

The same with lawyers – go to LegalZoom to create your routine limited liability company and you’ll do it for a third of the price of the lawyer who merely changes the names on the last routine limited liability company formation documents he prepared. Trying a case is different – you probably want a technical expert who has done it before. But a lot of legal knowledge is not only accessible but employable by regular citizens; the laws restricting the practice of law to those with a license may protect some people from harm, but it also ensures we lawyers can restrict supply and thus justify our outrageous fees. Remember, a lot of “expertise” is not skill derived from experience but merely access to information. And when everyone has that access, well, the guilds get really protective of their turf.

The expert technocracy model of governance also depends on the underlying assumption of a disinterested, objective technician class that will protect others’ interests before its own. But the notion that a particular expert is disinterested and somehow only concerned with objective facts is simply silly. As a trial lawyer, I absolutely know the other side is always going to hire some “expert” to say exactly what needs to be said to help its case. We litigators regularly refer to experts as “whores” – it’s just assumed. Now, smart lawyers try to get honest experts – I’d much prefer to hear early that my client’s case has problems. But there are surprisingly few smart lawyers – again, simply because you are in an expert caste does not mean you are not a half-wit.

The simple fact is that when people push for government by expert, the experts they want running things will always – every single time – happen to have exactly the same policy preferences as the people pushing them. “Leave climate science to the experts!” Yeah, and in a shocking turn of events, the experts we are supposed to defer to feel the solution to climate change is to give more money and power to the people demanding “Leave climate science to the experts!”

And then there’s the problem of incompetent experts. This is especially true in the media, where the internet has made the journalistic gatekeeper model obsolete. These hacks are panicking, and trying to claw back their authority by labeling dissent “fake news” – that is, when they aren’t themselves publishing outright lies and propaganda they imagine we’ll buy into. Talk about, as Peggy Noonan aptly put it, being patronized by our inferiors.

You would think that if you presumed to tell the rest of us what to think that you might first ensure that you actually know stuff. But then, being elite means never having to actually accomplish anything, like knowing stuff. For example, Judd Legum, a senior apparatchik at – the popular leftist political site best known for stuffing two questionable assertions into one web address – went on with Hugh Hewitt, who asked him a series of pretty basic questions about government and foreign policy. Well, it was pretty ugly. What he didn’t know was … extensive. I’d liken the segment to the Bataan Death March but Judd would probably not get the reference. He’ll have to check Wikipedia, just like everyone else. But then, if everyone else can do what Judd does, why do we need him and his ilk?

Experts aren’t what they used to be – that is, experts. “Experts” tell us that by an act of sheer desire, Dave can transform into Diane. That’s crazy. We try to outsource our moral judgment to “ethics experts” and end up with nutballs telling us infanticide is cool. The experts told us how there was an ice age coming. Then acid rain. Then ozone depletion. Then global warming. Then, when it didn’t actually get warmer, global climate change. Yet, somehow we are expected not to notice this litany of wrong and to just submit to the guidance of people who are literally never right.

Sure, if I had a brain tumor, I’d want a skilled neurosurgeon to take it out – though note how Dr. Ben Carson’s demonstrated track record of competence at that hard skill has earned him zero respect from the left, demonstrating that their alleged regard for expertise is simply another scam. But while I would rely on my doc for the technical work of cutting and slicing, his expertise does not apply to the other key issues involved – like whether I want to accept the consequences of the surgery on my quality of life. Questions that relate to our preferences and morals are not the province of experts. Nor should decisions regarding the principles and policies of our government be delegated to the technical experts charged with carrying them out.

We are American citizens. We can decide for ourselves what kind of nation we want to live in. That’s our decision. Experts? Well, you can provide advice, and then you can carry out our instructions. But don’t presume to do any more than that. You work for us, not vice versa.

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Comment by the Blog Author

Although I agree with what is written above, I firmly believe that, at common law, there is an important individual called an expert witness.  This is a witness who testifies about, and only about, a matter where he has profound and demonstrable knowledge.  Here’s some background on this from Wikipedia:

An expert witness, in England, Wales and the United States, is a person whose opinion by virtue of education, training, certification, skills or experience, is accepted by the judge as an expert. The judge may consider the witness's specialized (scientific, technical or other) opinion about evidence or about facts before the court within the expert's area of expertise, referred to as an "expert opinion". Expert witnesses may also deliver "expert evidence" within the area of their expertise. Their testimony may be rebutted by testimony from other experts or by other evidence or facts.

In Scots Law, Davie v Magistrates of Edinburgh (1953) provides authority that where a witness has particular knowledge or skills in an area being examined by the court, and has been called to court in order to elaborate on that area for the benefit of the court, that witness may give evidence of his/her opinion on that area.

Role of Expert Witnesses

Typically, experts are relied on for opinions on severity of injury, degree of sanity, cause of failure in a machine or other device, loss of earnings and associated benefits, care costs, and the like. In an intellectual property case an expert may be shown two music scores, book texts, or circuit boards and asked to ascertain their degree of similarity. In the majority of cases, the expert's personal relation to the defendant is considered and irrelevant.

The tribunal itself, or the judge, can in some systems call upon experts to technically evaluate a certain fact or action, in order to provide the court with a complete knowledge on the fact/action it is judging. The expertise has the legal value of an acquisition of data. The results of these experts are then compared to those by the experts of the parties.

The expert has a great responsibility, and especially in penal trials, and perjury by an expert is a severely punished crime in most countries. The use of expert witnesses is sometimes criticized in the United States because in civil trials, they are often used by both sides to advocate differing positions, and it is left up to a jury to decide which expert witness to believe. Although experts are legally prohibited from expressing their opinion of submitted evidence until after they are hired, sometimes a party can surmise beforehand, because of reputation or prior cases, that the testimony will be favorable regardless of any basis in the submitted data; such experts are commonly disparaged as "hired guns.”

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