The Decline of Trust in the Expert Class

If there is one phenomenon that has captivated and confounded the public sphere in recent years, it is the growing disillusionment with the so-called ‘expert class’, borne out of an increasing realization that our ‘expert class’ — those with gilded credentials and self-proclaimed authorities on all things consequential — have consistently failed to live up to the prestige they are afforded. This is not an arbitrary or unfounded sentiment. It comes as a response to a series of profound failings on the part of those who claim to know best, and yet seemingly offer little more than conjecture, flawed predictions, poor policy suggestions, and at times, an apparent disregard for facts that do not fit their preferred narratives.

In our society, the expert class has traditionally occupied a position of influence and prestige, shaping public opinion and policy with their perceived authority on complex issues. Yet, when the real-world outcomes of their advice fall far short of their lofty promises, it is the public, not the experts, who bear the brunt of the consequences.

In an age that privileges a university degree over demonstrable skill, our expert class often seems to be made up of individuals whose main claim to expertise lies in their ability to navigate the ivory towers of academia. They sport enviable credentials, undoubtedly, but the fruits of their counsel bear little testimony to the efficacy of their supposed knowledge.

Their predications, often proclaimed with the assuredness of seers, falter time and again in the face of reality. Consider the economic models that foresaw a bright, unending horizon of prosperity before the 2008 financial crisis. Or the confident proclamations regarding the ‘Arab Spring’, which spoke of flourishing democracies in place of long-standing autocratic regimes. Instead, we have seen economic chaos and a Middle East more unstable than ever.

The experts warned that Brexit would cause an immediate and cataclysmic economic collapse should the United Kingdom vote to leave the European Union. Yet, years after the vote, these doomsday prophecies have largely failed to materialise, making the experts look out of touch with the real-world economic resilience.

Or consider the more recent and globally felt impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. We saw conflicting advice from experts on whether masks were necessary, whether lockdowns were effective, and even the origins of the virus. Expertise seemed to melt into the background as the situation demanded decisiveness, transparency, and a clear understanding of the facts.

Their strategies and suggestions, those precious insights for which they are esteemed and sought after, more often than not, seem to plunge us into deeper troubles rather than offer respite. The handling of the migrant crisis in Europe, the push for indiscriminate multiculturalism without a plan for integration, the call for lockdowns without weighing the devastating economic consequences — all underscore a record of missteps and miscalculations.

The expert class has, it seems, developed an unfortunate habit of favouring theory over practicality and speculation over empiricism. The desire to propose groundbreaking theories often results in bizarre speculations that directly contradict proven strategies. This propensity for the complex over the simple has resulted in policy proposals that often seem more inclined towards intellectual gymnastics than practical effectiveness.

The populace, rightly so, grows weary. They long for competence over credentials, for those who have a proven track record of practical, measurable success, not just an array of impressive degrees. They yearn for leaders who can bring about tangible change, not spin theories. They pine for visionaries who can paint a future not merely in eloquent words, but in bold, meaningful actions.

Yet the most disturbing aspect of this crisis of confidence is not the fallibility of experts – after all, everyone can make mistakes – but the apparent unwillingness among the expert class to acknowledge these mistakes. When the public perceives an inability to admit error, an unwillingness to incorporate dissenting views, or even a predisposition to ignore inconvenient facts, it sows seeds of mistrust.

This is not a call for a populist rejection of expertise. Instead, it is a plea for humility, openness, and honesty among our expert class. We need experts who value empirical evidence over abstract theorising and possess skill, practical wisdom, and demonstrable success over fanciful credentials and unfulfilled ideological prognostications.

The erosion of trust in the expert class is a symptom of a wider malaise, a feeling that those who claim to know best have drifted from reality, entangled in a web of their own theories.

The winds of change are blowing, and they carry a simple message: competence, not credentials, will shape our future. Let us hope our expert class can tune their ears to this wind, else they risk becoming obsolete relics of a bygone era.

Leave a Reply