This Christ­mas we need the gift of hu­mil­ity

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary -

Through­out the race the bet­ting odds gave Hil­lary Clin­ton an 80 per­cent like­li­hood of win­ning. That was never the case. This race was al­ways a toss-up with slight odds lean­ing to­ward Hil­lary. But sev­eral months ago my friend Jonah Gold­berg, who is a very smart guy, in­sisted over and over on Fox News that Mr. Trump had no chance of win­ning the race. Stu­art Spencer, who is sup­posed to be one of the wise men of Repub­li­can pol­i­tics and gets paid a lot of money for his sage po­lit­i­cal ad­vice said a few weeks be­fore the elec­tion that “the elec­tion is over” and that Mr. Trump had no chance of win­ning. Zero.

My point is ex­perts are sur­pris­ingly wrong sur­pris­ingly of­ten. The large ma­jor­ity of po­lit­i­cal ex­perts and polls in Bri­tain pre­dicted that Brexit would lose. Oops.

A few years be­fore the hous­ing melt­down and the more than $100 bil­lion tax­payer bailout of Fan­nie Mae and Fred­die Mac, No­bel prize-win­ner Joseph Stiglitz and the fu­ture Of­fice of Man­age­ment and Bud­get di­rec­tor Peter Orszag wrote a re­search pa­per con­clud­ing that “the risk to the gov­ern­ment from a po­ten­tial de­fault on GSE debt is ef­fec­tively zero.” So ei­ther the hous­ing bust was a one in a mil­lion event ... or they had no idea what they were talk­ing about.

Re­mem­ber Long-Term Cap­i­tal Man­age­ment? This com­pany was said to have a com­puter model de­vel­oped by No­bel prize win­ners and other math­e­mat­i­cal ge­niuses that was a mag­i­cal money mak­ing ma­chine. And it made money year af­ter year un­til it crashed and went bank­rupt.

Paul Krug­man writes twice a week for the New York Times as their eco­nomic sage. He was asked on TV af­ter the Trump elec­tion and the stock mar­ket sell-off the night of the elec­tion, when would the mar­ket re­cover? His sour­puss an­swer was “never.” A few hours later the mar­ket went on a mas­sive bull mar­ket run giv­ing stocks one of their best months ever. Yet The New York Times still runs opin­ion pieces as if he has some­thing wise to say.

A few years ago the di­etary ex­perts said fat would kill you and now it’s said to be good for you. In 2005 Na­tional Geo­graphic ran a cover story “The End of Cheap Oil.” a few years later we had the shale oil and gas rev­o­lu­tion and now the planet is drown­ing in cheap en­ergy.

My point isn’t to thumb my nose at peo­ple who get it wrong. I’ve made many pre­dic­tions that have been wrong too. But I rarely pre­dict things with the vir­tual cer­tainty that many “ex­perts” do.

So this is a plea for hu­mil­ity by the ex­perts and a heathy dose of skep­ti­cism from the pub­lic. Econ­o­mists say they can pre­dict what job growth and em­ploy­ment will be next year and five years from now. Bud­get ex­perts pre­dict what the bud­get deficit will be in five years. Guess what. They have no idea.

The cli­mate change fa­nat­ics say that there is no doubt about global warm­ing and its com­ing cat­a­strophic ef­fects. They say that the science is “set­tled.” Of course it is not. How is shut­ting off de­bate good for sci­en­tific in­quiry? How about ad­mit­ting that you may be wrong?

Young peo­ple to­day treat ex­perts as if they are godly. In­stead of ques­tion­ing author­ity — which is a healthy thing, they swal­low the swill un­think­ingly. On cam­puses I al­ways have to tell stu­dents: don’t be­lieve ev­ery­thing the teach­ers tell you. A lot of it is false. As Napoleon Bon­a­parte once asked: What is his­tory but a fa­ble agreed upon?

I spent the early years of my ca­reer work­ing for the great myth buster Ju­lian Si­mon. Ju­lian chal­lenged al­most all of the con­ven­tional wis­doms of the 1970s: that the earth was over­pop­u­lated, that we were run­ning out of en­ergy, that food shortages would lead to mass star­va­tion, and air pol­lu­tion would get worse. He was mostly right, the sci­en­tific con­sen­sus was of­ten wrong. Yet many of those who have got­ten the story con­sis­tently wrong (Mr. Krug­man, the poll­sters, the Sierra Club, the di­eti­cians) still make pre­dic­tions with ab­so­lute cer­tainty.

Wis­dom is know­ing what you don’t know, which for all of us, es­pe­cially the so-called ex­perts, is a lot. This Christ­mas is a good time to re­mem­ber that the only per­son who was ever flaw­less was hung from a cross. Stephen Moore is a Free­dom Works con­sul­tant and a Fox News con­trib­u­tor.

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