We need experts and expertise. I want the help of doctors when making decisions about my health, of educators when making decisions about my children’s schooling, and so on. And when the pandemic swept in, our politicians needed to consult the experts. Time will tell whether we needed the relatively strong lockdown we got, whether the Swedish model was better (maybe, maybe not), and so on. I would not pretend to judge at this relatively early moment. Whatever the best path might have been, we should beware experts with lousy incentives. If experts are people who respond to their incentives just like non-experts, then we may need to rethink how we use experts in the political system.
Today we have the “rule of experts.” Monopoly experts have the power to choose for you in one field after another, including child protective services, economic policy, and pandemic response. But if you give some humans the monopoly power to choose for other humans, you have created some dangerous incentives. The rule of experts gives you the highest chance of expert failure. We should value expertise, but fear expert power. Whenever possible, then, we should do away with the rule of experts by empowering the people. Let each person choose for themself, and let the experts compete with each other to provide advice. That’s a call for ramping down the power of government bureaucrats and ramping up personal freedom. But you can push that idea only so far with pandemic policy.