Arnold Kling  

The Era of Expert Failure

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Macroeconomic Costs of Credent... Against the Research and Devel...

I also have a new essay for Cato.


Ironically, whenever government experts fail, their instinctive reaction is to ask for more power and more resources. Instead, we need to step back and recognize that what we are seeing is not the vindication of Keynes, but the vindication of Hayek. That is, decentralized knowledge is becoming increasingly important, and that in turn makes centralized power increasingly anomalous.

This is one of those essays that I wrote in one sitting and that I think I will like for a long time. It hits some of my favorite themes. Another excerpt:

elected officials want results. They turn to experts who promise results. The experts cannot deliver. So the experts must ask for more power.


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COMMENTS (6 to date)
Joey Donuts writes:

You should do more extemporaneous writing. Terrific essay!

I particularly liked the discussion on health care reform and your recognition of entry barriers in education and health care.

I know I like my barber and it has nothing to do with his license.

Thomas DeMeo writes:

Government experts aren't the driving force asking for power. Legislatures assign it to them in response to political circumstances.

At the very core of this is the failure of legislative power, not expert power. For the most part, government experts just do their jobs within the parameters given to them. There is power in deciding details, so legislative bodies continue to write ridiculously complex bills.

R Richard Schweitzer writes:

There is the additional matter of determining what qualifies as "expertise," and thus the selection of "experts," which turns out to be a political process of its own.

Thus we have today the symbiosis of the political and academic classes.

This was re-enforced in the judiciary by Felix Frankfurter who expounded his views (sustained by succesors he influenced) to me and a few others at a private session in the company of Dr. Meta Glass back around 1952.

Government by expertise was well underway, with weigh on.

ThomasL writes:

I think the tightest statement was this:

As we have seen, the expectations placed on government experts tend to be unrealistically high. This selects for experts with unusual hubris. The authority of the state gives government experts a dangerous level of power.

And the absence of market discipline gives any errors that these experts make an opportunity to accumulate and compound almost without limit.

Tom Riddle writes:

This is a great article. On experts with unusual hubris, Larry Summers came to mind.

What does this mean for China given theircentralized policy/decision making?

Bill Smith writes:

Dear Mr. Kling:

Thank you so much for this article, and for sparking all five of the above comments. The essay explains a great deal. I plan to send it to my two boards (small banks)in order to help us all understand what is going on.

Bill Smith
Board of Directors
United Labor Bank
San Luis Trust Bank

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