In a post billed as a defense of Obama’s Treasury Secretary and his “revised financial bailout plan,” Nate Silver freestyles an argument on the merits of restraining ideology and moderating our respective tendencies to believe that (i) we each know what we’re talking about, regardless of the subject, and (ii) we each have a corner on absolute rightness.
I’m sorry, but somewhere between 99.9% and 99.999999% of us are severely underqualified to be making policy recommendations on this particular issue. And I’m certainly in the majority on this one. My anecdotal experience for the past several months has been that the more someone knows about the economy, the more they know (or at least are willing to admit to) what they don’t know. Anyone who is professing with certainty that this or that will work — nationalizing the banks, for instance — is an idiot.
Now, while I agree with Silver’s ultimate counsel, that we should all “lay off the ideological smelling salts,” I’m not sure I totally buy into his recommended path of restraint:
This is neither the time nor the place for mass movements — this is the time for expert opinion. Once the experts (and I’m not one of them) have reached some kind of a consensus about what the best course of action is (and they haven’t yet), then figure out who is impeding that action for political or other disingenuous reasons and tackle them — do whatever you can to remove them from the playing field. But we’re not at that stage yet.
Translation: Let informed people figure it out, then accept their answer for what it is, then argue with those who dispute the answer.
I can’t buy into that recommendation because I’m a devout member of the Church of the Wisdom of Crowds. Members of this church believe that, if a crowd is diverse and dispersed enough, its aggregated inputs will result in answers as good as, if not better than, the answers offered by a non-diverse group of cloistered “experts.” Perhaps there’s a middle ground. For instance, we could remove the “lunatic fringe” (on both ends of the ideological spectrum) from this debate, but let everyone else (with or without extensive knowledge of economics) offer ther inputs, as long as they sign a pledge — which we might call the “I’m not sure, but here are my two cents” pledge.