Saturday, April 25, 2009

The lessons of 2002 - humility and expertise

The torture memos remind us of the terrible failure of American character in 2002. Krugman learned something then (emphases mine) ...
The defining moment - Paul Krugman Blog -

...The Bush administration was obviously — yes, obviously — telling tall tales in order to promote the war it wanted: the constant insinuations of an Iraq-9/11 link, the hyping of discredited claims about a nuclear program, etc.. And the question was, should you stand up against that? Not many did — and those who did were treated as if they were crazy.

For me and many others that was a radicalizing experience; I’ll never trust “sensible” opinion again.
My personal lesson was a little different. I now have far less respect for confident experts and expert consensus. There's an empirical basis for this skepticism - a confident famous expert is less reliable than a random choice. (Technically, this rule applies to Mr. Krugman, who is both confident and famous.)

After 2002 I put my faith in quiet experts who admit ambiguity and uncertainty.

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