Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts

To Experts: a Few Words of Wisdom

“I would rather be governed by the first 2,000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty.” –William F. Buckley I began this series of posts by focusing on the annoyance ordinary people experience when they are constantly being told what to do by an ever-proliferating series of experts in almost every field …

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Back to the Middle Ages: A Century of “Expertism” in America

The vast Federal regulatory apparatus that we know and love today got its start early in the 20th century under President Woodrow Wilson. Appropriately, Wilson was the only President in U.S. history to earn a PhD–he’d been president of Princeton University. At that time the world still believed that Great Britain was the globe’s most powerful …

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It was a Good Idea in Theory…

Back in 1986 I launched a wealth management firm I conceitedly called “Greycourt”—it’s an anagram for my name. The firm met with modest success and in 1988 I incorporated it. I was probably the most hopeless, bumbling entrepreneur in the history of private enterprise, but somehow I’ve been with Greycourt for 31 years. For the …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part XI

As far as reigning in annoying experts is concerned, Congress and the judiciary are a bust, albeit with a few tiny bright spots on the distant horizon, twinkling away like dying lighthouses on a storm-tossed sea. But what about the Presidency? As noted earlier in this series, Donald Trump was the candidate of people who …

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When Experts Judge the Experts

In my last post we examined the (pathetic) attempts of Congress to control the tyranny of the experts. Fortunately, Congress isn’t the only weapon in the battle against expert oppression, even at the Federal level. Let’s take a look at the judiciary. But before we do, let’s pause to savor the delicious irony of what …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part IX

“The complexity of modern life has steadily whittled away the functions the ordinary citizen can intelligently and comprehendingly perform for himself…When he sits down to breakfast and looks at his morning paper, he reads about a whole range of vital and intricate issues and acknowledges…that he has not acquired the competence to judge most of …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part VIII

Freedom is better, even when it’s worse. We might think about experts the way we think about stop signs (bear with me on this…) To understand the expert-stop sign analogy let’s begin with Arthur C. Brooks, who has written (in “Foreign Affairs” and elsewhere) about what he calls “the dignity deficit,” which he believes cost Mrs. Clinton …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part VII

Viewed through the lens of “the tyranny of the experts,” it’s easy to see that in the last election Hillary Clinton was the candidate of the experts, while Donald Trump was the candidate of people who were tired of being tyrannized by them. Clinton is an expert herself—she’s a lawyer who practiced with The Rose …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part VI

Populism is an unsettling phenomenon in part because we don’t know where it will end. And we don’t know where it will end because populism isn’t itself a governing idea—it’s a response to the perceived failure of other governing ideas. On the other hand, looking back through history we can notice—as a matter of observation, …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part V

If we wanted to—well, we do want to—we could go back 2,500 years and identify the exact point when human civilization went off the rails on the subject of experts. It’s 399 B.C. and a fellow named Socrates is languishing in an Athenian prison, awaiting execution. He’s been convicted (albeit by a narrow vote of the citizens …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part IV

Not that long ago—say, when my parents were starting out in married life—building a sound investment portfolio was a piece of cake. You bought some Blue Chip stocks and some Triple A bonds and you were done. And even having to worry about building a portfolio was a very rare experience. The vast majority of …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts, Part II

I launched this series of posts by taking a brief tour of a regrettable society called Acirema, in which a race of experts called Masters, though a tiny minority, lorded it over a sub-race of non-experts called Slaves. We’re back, now, in America and wondering if Acerima society might offer a moral for us. Not …

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Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts

Is it better never to put your ideas in writing and thus be thought a vacuous fool, or is it better to launch your own blog and remove all doubt? To launch this series of posts with such a mouthful of a title—Democracy, Populism, and the Tyranny of the Experts (hereinafter DP&TE)—we’re going to engage in one …

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