Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The "War on Experts"

Much of my research deals with the development of public policy in Canada in the post-World War II era. A key theme that crops up regularly, particularly in the 1950s through to the 1970s, is the "rise of the expert" as governments and citizens increasingly turned to professionals who were considered "expert" in their fields to guide the development of policy.

In recent years, it seems that just the opposite is taking place. Conservative governments and movements have been taking aim at the "pointy-headed eggheads" and dismissing evidence and analysis, relying instead on "gut", "common sense" and just plain old "because-I-said-so"ism. It's extremely troubling for anyone who advocated a rational approach to the development of our society.

With that in mind, take a gander at Andrew Coyne's latest column. He seems to see a silver lining in the relative failure of these anti-expertise politics to take hold. I'm less convinced that we aren't just seeing the tip of the iceberg, and that worse is yet to come. If you're not feeling depressed yet, check out this piece by Paul Wells.

They used to say that when the revolution comes, first they'll round up all the historians. Perhaps what we weren't informed is that the statisticians will be pre-emptively undermined.

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