Lock down the experts

Monday 28th September 2020

The Ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic was built by experts. Our governing politicians are in thrall to the ‘advice’ of ‘experts’, who have no skin in the game – apart of course from polishing their own credentials. 

Lockdowns are becoming two hundred dollar solutions to two dollar problems. Neither of the Vallance/Whitty duopoly has any front-line work experience in the private sector. I’ll give you that Sir Patrick Vallance worked for GlaxoSmithKline as senior vice president in medicine discovery and development.   But I’m guessing the only cut and thrust of survival was more lab-based than frantically trying to run a business as the economy tanks, and then doesn’t and then has its course changed again.

In my work, I’ve met many ‘exoerts’ and they are usually nothing but trouble. It’s a journalist’s job to disentangle the thickets of self-serving jargon which clouds either a ‘don’t know’ or a simple ‘perhaps’ – but it takes guts for a generalist to challenge their view.

The French have a phrase for this deliberate obfuscation – deformation professionnelle .  Or you could say:  ‘blinding by science’.  Looking at things from the point of view of one’s own profession or expertise. It’s not in an expert’s interest to step out of that comfort zone, because no specialist wants to be proved wrong. And, based on the knowledge that someone eventually in that coterie of expertise is going to be proved wrong one day, much better to be a bearer of bad tidings now, so that under brighter outcomes that bad advice is forgotten. And that also allows plenty of time for some nifty hindsight defence work.

Where are our elected representatives amid this deluge of highly charged hypotheses ? As the lockdowns and the penalties cross the line from the sensible closing of pubs at 10pm, to  forbidding relatives to socialise in their own homes, it’s time for our leaders to exercise proper judgement over those who merely  advise. Allowing parliament to vote on future stringencies is a good step, but it allows blame to be placed at the door of the democratic process.  And that might result in an even greater mess.


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