The Intellectual Yet Idiot
Nassim Nicholas Taleb
6.1K

I would have titled this “The One Eyed Expert”

But I’m not sure what the solution is. First, as you’ve already pointed out, these “experts” don’t believe the criticism is directed at them, only the other misinformed experts in “other fields”. Today knowledge, expertise, has become so atomized: Micro Economists don’t understand Macro (though they deny it, e.g. Mankiw), genetic biologists can’t see the plants for the fields (crops vs the environment), energy producers all in a rush to the bottom with the world as their garbage dump, all the while claiming they’ve “got it under control” (NOT: per the Alyso Canyon disaster) or “What are you worried about, a few degrees global temperature more or less in the past few decades”; choking on our own exhaust. No big picture thinking. No regard for history. (In defense of a few there were books like “This Time it’s Different” by Rogoff/ Reinhardt which actually used history to make a case against the rosy scenario of “This time it’s different”. But the behavior that makes sense for the individual utterly fails on the macro level because today, “everyone is a contrarian”). Plus, there’s no honesty about what’s actually happening to families in the US for the past nearly 50 years: declining levels of living, declining levels of education or poorer results in absolute values of education, (literacy rates, numeracy rates, etc. things actually exacerbated by “teaching to the test”, go figure). Yes, elites in nearly every field have made our lives worse instead of better, with some notable exceptions in specific outcomes. We survive strokes and cancer better but it costs us a fortune. Collectively we have gone from paying about 5–7% of gross income in the early 70’s for health care to 18–21% today. The difference is in vacations not taken, school districts starved for resources, time not spent with the family working two jobs.

It is to government we look in order to balance some of the extremes of the “free market” but now there is a whole industry devoted to convincing american citizen the government only makes things worse. And worse still, sometimes they’re right! But is the solution to stop trying or is the solution to work harder at having more representative government by the citizenry instead for select interests. Does everyone believe the concept of “the greater good” a farce? Was government For By and Of the People of the United States any less attainable in our day than Lincoln’s? Certainly you can read about civil war profiteers and political corruption from the mid 19th century. What we face today is not a new thing.

“What is to be Done”? The many times anyone asked this question the cure was arguably worse than the disease, though czarist Russia, komutang China, and Weimar Germany certainly had their faults. What are our faults?

Can they be corrected by a democratic political revolution, as per Bernie Sanders? Is better education the answer? Where are the leaders? Did the Occupy Movement vault us into a post-leadership era? How did that work out for us? Each and every one of us is responsible for the government we have. This is happening on our watch. Sadly, many of us cannot even agree on identifying the problems.