The Tyranny of Experts

A couple of years ago, the bees were dying.  Readers may recall the alarmist news coverage:  soon, we were told, the mass extinction of our buzzy little pollinators would destroy agriculture globally, resulting in widespread famines.  We must save the bees!

Meanwhile, I can’t walk to my car without fat, furry bees hovering around, ensuring the giant Sasquatch before them is just getting into his sensible subcompact hatchback, and not coming for their precious hive.  My yard is a dream for bees (especially before I got the winter weeds mowed up)—they particularly love the azalea bushes—and they seem to be doing fine.

The point is, had you listened to the expert apiarists, you’d think that civilization itself rested on the gossamer wings of black-and-yellow insects.  Sure, there probably is a problem with bee populations declining due to exposure to advance insecticides.  But the intense focus of apiarists in their field blinded them to other considerations.  They saw bee populations declining, and nothing else.

Experts know their fields so well, at times they can’t see the hive for the bees.  The dire prophecies of global bee deaths and the resulting famines never came, and we didn’t declare a national emergency over the decline in bee populations because there are a million other priorities.  We didn’t shut down industrial-scale agriculture to save the bees from insecticide, because to do so would result in millions of lost human lives.  The bees would have to figure it out on their own (indeed, as bee populations fell, beekeepers turned a tidy profit renting their hives to farmers, and that incentive encouraged the cultivation of more bees).

You can see where I’m going with this extended bee metaphor.  In the current coronavirus pandemic, we’ve leaned so heavily on the advice of medical professionals, we’re not considering the broader trade-offs.  The old expression “the cure is worse than the disease” is particularly apt here:  while social distancing and government-sanctioned “shelter-in-place” orders will surely slow the spread of infection and save lives, they will also result in massive economic destruction.

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Independence Day

The day has finally come—after three-and-a-half years, Great Britain is finally leaving the European Union.  The British people are regaining their sovereignty and will begin their way back to enjoying their traditional English liberties.

The European Union is an overweaning, elitist, supranational tyranny.  It is a progressive dream, which is why the Leftists are melting down over Brexit, and attempted to thwart it for so many years.  Progressives today—just like progressives in the early twentieth century—are gaga for technocratic rule and elitist dominance.

It’s not about “democracy”; if it was, they would have accepted the outcome of the 2016 referendum.  Democracy only matters to progressives when it advances their ends.  That’s why progressives hold elections and referendums—repeatedly, if necessary—until they get the outcomes they want—and then the matter is settled forever.  If that doesn’t work, courts or the bureaucracy will effectively veto the voters’ “incorrect” choices.

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Lazy Sunday XXIX: The New Criterion

Conservatives, especially conservative writers and publishers, tend to get so fixated on policy wonkery and political debates, we sometimes lose sight of culture.  One reason I appreciate blogger buddy photog’s blog, Orion’s Cold Fire, so much is that he makes room for reviews of sci-fi novels, Twilight Zone episodes, and the like.

One publication that makes culture the centerpiece of its mission is The New Criterion, which takes the idea of reviewing the best in art, literature, music, and drama very seriously.  I recently re-subscribed TNC after having a lapsed subscription for a couple of years, and I’m eager to get my first issue in forty-eight weeks.

With that in mind, this week’s Lazy Sunday is dedicated to pieces the writers at The New Criterion inspired:

  • Civilization is Worth It” – This piece discusses an excellent audio version of a piece about Rousseau’s ideas regarding civilization (that is to say, Rousseau argued civilization was the cause of all of our problems, and we were better of dancing around naked in caves).  It’s definitely worth a listen.
  • E.T.A. Hoffman & Romanticism” – This very short post covered a charming little essay about E.T.A. Hoffman, arguably the founder of the Romantic movement in literature, as well as a brief discussion of the consequences, both positive and negative, of the Romantic temperament, and the idea of the brooding, troubled artist.
  • The League of Nations” – Trans- and supranational organizations were all the rage in the twentieth century, and the League of Nations was the first—and the biggest flop—in this do-gooding, globalist trend.  The League of Nations was famously ineffective, which just meant we’d be saddled with an even worse organization, the United Nations, after the League failed to prevent the Second World War.  Now the European Union is creating a tyrannical empire of Belgian bureaucrats in the name of preventing a tyrannical empire of German bureaucrats from trying to conquer Europe again.  Yeesh.
  • The Good Populism” – The counter to the aforementioned tyrannical transnational organizations is good, healthy populism, the kind of middle-class, conservative revolutions that brought us the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and Donald Trump (among others).  Super historian and classicist Victor Davis Hanson makes the case for the “good populism,” as opposed to Bernie Bro socialistic populism, in this piece, one of the most popular TNC published in 2018.
  • New Criterion on Principles in Politics” – What’s more important—principles or victory?  That’s not exactly the gist of this piece, but it does examine the tricky debate taking place among the Right currently about how to handle deranged Leftists.  What are the limits of principles?  The David French model of always surrendering—but being polite while doing so—is clearly not an effective way to uphold conservative principles.

That’s it for this Sunday.  Enjoy some erudite cultural criticism!

–TPP

Other Lazy Sunday Installments:

SubscribeStar Saturday: The Stakes of the Culture War

A special note:  today’s SubscribeStar Saturday is probably the most important essay I’ve written this year.  I encourage to read it with your subscription of $1/mo. or more.  If you’re unable to pitch in, send me a message and I’ll e-mail you a PDF.

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.

Over the past couple of weeks, the stakes of the culture war have really hit home for me.  As I wrote last weekend, the “misinformation gap” between regular voters and reality seems overwhelming.

I’ve long held that building individual relationships can change lives, and can undo a great deal of brainwashing, and I have anecdotal proof:  through patient dialogue and loving guidance (and prayer), I helped guide a former student away from progressive extremism and bisexuality (it was a male student, so it’s impossible for him to be truly bisexual, anyway).  He’s now a girl-loving populist and, while he’s not totally on the Trump Train, he’s longer a Bernie Bro.

But that kind of patient, incremental relationship-building, while critical, is too slow for our present crisis.  It’s also incredibly wearying because it’s so labor-intensive, and because of the immensity of the project:  there’s a lot of brainwashing to undo, and most of what needs to be unwashed is quite subtle.

To read the rest of this post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.