Who are these “Experts”?

What an ordeal this has been! Our invisible enemy, COVID-19 has come to wreak havoc on our people and we are doing everything we can to prevent it from destroying what we know as civilization. This, not unlike climate change, is the great existential threat that we must all face. And apparently we must all listen obediently, slavishly, and stupidly to the advice of the all-knowing experts. We must throw reason to the wayside for we mere mortals know nothing and the experts are immortals who know all!

Now this may be a bit of hyperbole but surely most of us (myself included) have heeded extreme cautions and undergone (now legally enforceable) self-quarantine. Why have we done so? Well, because we’re told to. We’re told to by experts who know more than we do about epidemiology. I have no particular qualms with listening to experts who know more than I do about a particular topic. After all, I listen to my doctor, my thesis supervisor, my sommelier (okay I don’t have a sommelier but if I did I’m sure I would listen to them). But it appears that we have taken the experts in one field and given them free range to become unquestioned experts on anything and everything. Take, for example, this Business Insider article which touts,

In addition to downplaying the virus and refusing to take responsibility for the US’s initially lukewarm response to it, Trump and Republican officials have repeatedly — and inaccurately — referred to it as the “Chinese virus.”

They continue to do so even in the face of warnings from experts on China and public health, who say the term is racist and xenophobic. (Italics mine)

By what right are experts on China and public health qualified to tell us what is racist and xenophobic (not to mention the fact that this claim goes uncited in the article)? I have had the fortunate chance of meeting and discussing racism and xenophobia with many philosophers of race, feminist philosophers, and queer philosophers, all of whom are steeped in the literature, but these are not the experts Business Insider chose to consult. Why is this? Why have public health experts become the one source of all knowledge in this horrible crisis? I don’t know the answer. If I were to postulate, I would guess that it is fear. We know that health experts are the most important experts in this time (a claim I am not disputing) and out of fear we have deferred to them as authority figures on all matters. The ‘why?’ of it is less important for my argument here.

The most interesting field in which I have been amazed to see us eat up the supposed expertise of the public health experts is the field of economics. As Thomas Woods asks,

The answer should be that they are not the only ones entitled to an opinion. But yet, we have shut down just about everything in order to accommodate the prescribed medicine to our disease. As Jeffrey Tucker puts it,

It then became the perfect storm. Risk-averse politicians deciding to do something, anything, to avoid blame. Bureaucrats doing what they do best, which is telling people no, you cannot innovate, you cannot produce, you cannot distribute. Local tyrants stopping price gouging and therefore preventing the price system from working. A howling media famished for eyeballs, ears, and clicks. A public panicked about disease and death. An egregious dividing of people into essential and nonessential. Policy snares, tangles, missed opportunities all around.

The cacophony of information chaos has been palpable, unbearable.

I do not mean to downplay the importance of social distancing and self-isolation. After all, I am no expert! But there seems to me that most people I interact with (which admittedly is not many people these days) seem to believe that all of this is necessary and “worth it”. But how do they know if it’s worth it? What are their sources on the cost-benefit analysis of all of this shutdown or as Gene Epstein puts it, “the great suppression”? The answer is; whatever the media gives them. Which unfortunately now, is only health experts.

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