Michael Gove’s famous or infamous quote about having “had enough of experts” has often been held up as an example of anti-intellectualism. Perhaps if Faisal Islam had spent less of the next half minute in outraged repetition of the words “Had enough of experts?” he might have heard what Gove said next about the particular experts in question having been wrong before. FullFact belatedly acknowledged that the full quote about specific experts with a bad record was a good deal less incendiary than the truncated version about experts in general, when the site made this correction:
We’ve updated this piece to source the full quote from Michael Gove. Previously it read “People in this country have had enough of experts.”
But you know what? Even the simplistic, cut-off-mid-sentence version of Gove’s quote does well enough. The referendum result demonstrated that a lot of people had had enough of anything billed as expert opinion in the field of economics, and no wonder. Predictions of equal accuracy to theirs could have been obtained from expert astrologers. Matthew Goodwin has written a piece for UnHerd that talks about why the record of economic and political experts is so dismal:
How political bias blinds us: Ideological cocoons prevent experts from seeing, and engaging with, the wider world.
When the referendum arrived in 2016, another survey of nearly 600 experts delivered a remarkably clear view. Nearly 90% expected Remain to win. Just 5% felt that Brexit was the most likely outcome. Journalists were noticeably worse: 97% predicted Remain and just 3% Brexit. And most expected Remain to win by at least 10-points. There were simply too few people willing to question and challenge the herd thinking.
I like to make a distinction between experts and “experts”. Experts can make reasonably accurate predictions. “Experts” cannot.
Dominic Cummings noted that “Politics is not a field which meets the two basic criteria for true expertise.” We have received many proofs (and one more between this post and my comment) that experts have agendas, fool themselves, are activists who rewrite past and present, and outright lie. But politics is not the only field in which people who lack all these characteristics can still be only ‘experts’ but not experts – because the nature of the issue does not allow it.
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