Tom Nichols on The Death of Expertise

This essay, printed in “Foreign Affairs,” in their current issue, and extracted from Nichols’s new book, just published is a sobering, yet witty account of a phenomenon long in the making. He adopted an essay that originally appeared in “The Federalist” in 2014 to write the book. So, in a sense the essay is a distillation of a reconstitution of a concentrated contemplation. I heard Nichols interviewed on NPR’s “Here and Now” program yesterday, and that’s worth a listen. He’s sharp, and clearly quite smart, and humorous, when appropriate. And all in a very establishment package, an academic who is a professor at the Navy War College. After we’ve all had a chance to peruse this dense and lengthy essay, perhaps there’ll be more to say. You can start with a comment here, if you would.
Here’s the essay: https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/united-states/2017-02-13/how-america-lost-faith-expertise

Nichols, as you’ll discover, is a national security expert who learns from his mistakes, and knows whereof he speaks. Here him speak briefly and convincingly here, with a podcast from NPR’s broadcast on March 13, 2017: http://www.wbur.org/hereandnow/2017/03/13/expertise-death-tom-nichols

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2 Comments

  1. I was dumbfounded during the W years by a person who said “Well, I wouldn’t want a President who was smarter than me”…tribal confluence clearly being more important than anything…and with half of the people being below average (do the math) this is the result. Mikki points out that the Kennedy-Nixon debates, with folks clearly holding very disparate views, were polite, focussed on policy, and full of real content…watching the progression, I expect the next round of debates to be two people holding wooden clubs, grunting and swinging at each other….there’s just too many people now who don’t even know what they don’t know…of course, vast numbers of people (still) accept religion on faith…which shows their lack of respect for anything logical, fact-based, and provable…there always were snake-oil salespeople, but now they can reach the multitudes with the click of a mouse..expertise merely gets in the way of consolidating power…

    1. Naturally, I agree wholeheartedly with all you said. Well, there was one combination of words you used that was a little humorous: “…vast number of people (still) accept religion on faith…” and I have to wonder, how else could one take religion? I believe I know what you meant though, and I’ll ask, if suddenly everyone was a rational skeptic, what would we do with all those empty houses of worship? Not to mention all those full church-affiliated graveyards?

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