Opinion

On Populism

Civilization is like a very fine suit of clothes that is just slightly too small for us. The term “populism” derives from the Latin, populus, meaning “people.” It doesn’t mean “people” in the sense of “There are a lot of people who don’t read my blog.” It means “people” in…

Nailed It

I recently received a nail salon gift card, which I thought was a bit unusual, because I have short, raggedy nails and giant “Man-​Hands.” My “Man-​Hands” are definitely passed down from my father’s side — my Uncle Willis could bend bottle caps into little tacos just using his thumb and index finger — and…

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

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.

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…

Don’t mess with Mel Messmer

My buddy Bill Downes and I were in good spirits. It was 1960, and after enjoying a light movie at the theater, we were strolling along California Avenue, the main street of Avalon, a small suburb north of Pittsburgh. It was a steamy, red-​sky summer evening. We were chattering away,…

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?

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.

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…

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…)

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.

The Union Project

“Work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.” –Studs Terkel

Breaking the Ice

When Apple co-​founder Steve Wozniak takes the Carnegie Music Hall stage Oct. 10, it will mark the 10th anniversary of what started as the Pittsburgh Middle East Institute and has grown to become the American Middle East Institute.

Sailing into the Fray

In May, my older sister emailed, wondering if I’d be sailing in the nationals, which this year would be where we spend summers in Michigan. I’d been considering it, but there were two impediments — pulling together a four-​man crew and the spinnaker. No problem with the crew, but flying a spinnaker…

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.
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