An Idea About Politicians and Academics

I spent some time of late reviewing some of my writing. As a writer (yes, I can call myself that–these words you read are testament), I come up with all sorts of ideas on a daily basis. Some creative, some analytical, some strange, some poetic. This piece is a kind of retrospective.

Specifically, I came across something I wrote about three years ago. I never shared it, but I will now. Here’s how it starts:

An idea about politicians and academics:
We entrust our politicians with being professional debaters and ruminators of the public good–they do the job of lawmaking for us because we can’t all be there to do it. And we, quite frankly, don’t all claim to be qualified.
But are politicians? Take for instance: If a statistician says something about foreign policy, we strike him down for not being in his place. But politicians routinely talk about about the odds of events with regards to national security or insurance. Are they just the mouths of their brain trusts? Or is there some switch in our culture that “validates” voices–some more than others?

Now heres what got me thinking: is the subsequent commentary no longer valid?

Why don’t we trust the economists when it comes to the economy, the biologists when it comes to the environment, and the physicists when it comes to energy sources? Why don’t politicians trust real odds when it comes to worrying about risk? Why don’t we heed warnings of historians when it comes to identifying precaurious paths down which we begin to wander?
Alas, we have no problem jumping when a politician shouts wolf, or directs our attention any which way. Since when have these people become the experts on everything, and why do they suddenly eclipse the roles of experts in many more detailed fields? Some may say it’s because they’re more “in touch with the people,” but this marks a real shift the role of the politician. Or does it?

Okay, that’s what I wrote. I didn’t edit it much. And I have to admit, I must have been in a pretty frustrated-with-the-government phase. But I’m just throwing it out there.

My question to you, dear reader: has the part about entrusting specialists changed? The new Obama administration has indeed appointed many specialists to lead specialized roles.

Is the Obama administration (or even Barack Obama himself) trying to redefine what it means to be a reasonable politician? And as for me–does my previous thought still apply, or are things sufficiently changing?


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