Sunday, May 28, 2017

Postmodernism "and other unfortunate hermeneutical fashions of recent decades"

From DENNETT ON WIESELTIER V. PINKER IN THE NEW REPUBLIC Let's Start With A Respect For Truth by Daniel C. Dennett. A Two Cultures argument a la C.P. Snow.

I was interested because it is such a vocal, but rare, argument against the ludditism, intolerance, bigotry and authoritarianism of postmodernists and their ilk (critical theory, critical race theory, gender studies, deconstructionism, postcolonial theory, multiculturalism, etc.).
Postmodernism, the school of "thought" that proclaimed "There are no truths, only interpretations" has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for "conversations" in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster. Wieseltier concedes the damage done to the humanities by postmodernism "and other unfortunate hermeneutical fashions of recent decades" but tries to pin this debacle on the "progressivism" the humanities was tempted to borrow from science. "The humanities do not progress linearly, additively, sequentially, like the sciences," he avers, in the face of centuries of scholarship and criticism in the humanities that have corrected, enlarged, illuminated, and advanced the understanding of all its topics and texts. All that accumulated knowledge used to be regarded as the intellectual treasure we humanities professors were dedicated to transmitting to the next generation, and Pinker is encouraging us to return to that project, armed with some new intellectual tools—both thinking tools (theories and methods and models and the like) and data-manipulating tools (computers, optical character recognition, statistics, data banks). Wieseltier wants no part of this, but his alternative is surprisingly reminiscent of the just discredited fads; perhaps he has not completely purged his mind of the germs of postmodernism.


Pomposity can be amusing, but pomposity sitting like an oversized hat on top of fear is hilarious. Wieseltier is afraid that the humanities are being overrun by thinkers from outside, who dare to tackle their precious problems—or "problematics" to use the, um, technical term favored by many in the humanities. He is right to be afraid. It is true that there is a crowd of often overconfident scientists impatiently addressing the big questions with scant appreciation of the subtleties unearthed by philosophers and others in the humanities, but the way to deal constructively with this awkward influx is to join forces and educate them, not declare them out of bounds. The best of the "scientizers" (and Pinker is one of them) know more philosophy, and argue more cogently and carefully, than many of the humanities professors who dismiss them and their methods on territorial grounds. You can't defend the humanities by declaring it off limits to amateurs. The best way for the humanities to get back their mojo is to learn from the invaders and re-acquire the respect for truth that they used to share with the sciences.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

He saw no reason to challenge the premises of a social dispensation that had contrived to produce a man as genial and accomplished as himself

From The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand. Describing Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Yet he was unabashedly provincial. His chief ambition was to represent the Boston point of view in all things. (He also suffered from asthma, which made travel uncomfortable.) On the other hand, he regarded the Boston point of view as pretty much the only point of view worth representing. He considered Boston "the thinking centre of the continent, and therefore of the planet." Or as he also put it, in a phrase that became the city's nickname for itself: "Boston State-House is the hub of the solar system." He was an enemy of Calvinism (which had been his father's religion) and a rationalist, but his faith in good breeding was nearly atavistic, and he saw no reason to challenge the premises of a social dispensation that had, over the course of two centuries, contrived to produce a man as genial and accomplished as himself.

Crows commute 20 miles to work

From The Secret Life of Urban Crows by James Ross Gardner.
There was nothing at first, just an empty sky. Then, a caw. A crow appeared on a nearby power line. Then another caw and another crow. Suddenly crows flew in from all directions. Their plaintive entreaties soon combined into a chorus. New arrivals joined what quickly grew into a cacophonous dervish of black silhouettes swirling directly above Swift.

It was like sorcery. Conjuring dozens of birds from thin air by simply removing fabric from a body.

This, according to Swift, is what its like to attend a crow funeral—an instinctive ritual that evolved generations ago and was just discovered by humans; Swift coauthored an article on her findings in the journal Animal Behaviour in 2015. The gist: Upon spotting one of its dead, the flock attends to the fallen bird en masse with loud shrieking. Given enough time the throng will mob any predator it thinks is responsible, like say, a human in a Dick Cheney mask, or in a mask like the one Swift had in her bag (the lab affectionately refers to that be-soul-patched fellow as Joe).
But what if I were to tell you that the crows you spy in your yard are almost always the same individual crows? That those birds—usually two, a male and a female known as a territorial pair—don’t live there but fly in every day from 20 miles away? During the day urban crows rummage and build nests in a specific spot, in a specific neighborhood, then decamp for the evening to a massive, crowded roost outside the city—their own crow planet— and report back to the neighborhoods each morning. Like you, they commute to work.

TDS and lingustics

There are so many elite factions struggling so mightily to protect their vested interests in the populist era of Trump, that it is hard to sort the wheat from the chaff in mainstream media reporting. The problem is exacerbated by there being an inordinate proportion of chaff. AKA fake news in the form of speculation, misinterpretation, stories based on anonymous sources, cognitive biases and simple straight-forward self-serving spinning. This disposition to extreme trafficking in partisan rumors has already led to the coinage Trump Derangement Syndrome (TDS).

I recently came across an article that seemed to fall into that category, Trump wasn’t always so linguistically challenged. What could explain the change? by Sharon Begley. Begley is trying to give credence to the idea that Trump is suffering some form of cognitive impairment based on the patterns of his speech. Basically it comes down to: "The president is crazy. A few of my friends agree." This is, of course, simply a single element of the larger effort to establish grounds to remove a president elected by the people but hated by the elite.

Of course such politically motivated speculation based on communication patterns is nothing new. Conservatives during the Obama era took delight in highlighting Obama's dependency on teleprompters and the challenges he faced in speaking articulately without one.

Double click to enlarge.

Well, there is one difference. Conservatives generally were seeking to denigrate Obama's intelligence or talent for public speaking, rather than trying to make a case for cognitive incapacity as Begley seems to be doing.

The reporting of Begley's speculation was in such outlets as Huffington Post. I read the headline and nothing more, anticipating that the research or reportage or both would be the product of TDS.

Which is unfortunate as there are a couple of legitimate issues in here.

While Ronald Reagan's presidency was immensely successful in many respects, he was, at that time, our oldest elected presidents and his age was always a partisan talking point and criticism. Reagan, being the communication master that he was, turned the criticism on its head in the October 21, 1984 second presidential debate against Walter Mondale. Henry "Hank" Trewhitt of the Baltimore Sun asked:
You already are the oldest President in history, and some of your staff say you were tired after your most recent encounter with Mr. Mondale. I recall, yes, that President Kennedy, who had to go for days on end with very little sleep during the Cuba missile crisis. Is there any doubt in your mind that you would be able to function in such circumstances?
To which Reagan famously replied:
Not at all, Mr. Trewhitt and I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent's youth and inexperience.
And yet, it is a fair question. Reagan was diagnosed with Alzheimer's just five years after leaving office. Were there demonstrable symptoms earlier, perhaps in the closing years of his presidency? Did it affect his performance? And how could we know? In a chronic wasting condition of that sort, there is no red line of transition, just increasing shades of grey.

At what point can a chronic condition, mental or physical, be considered disbarring of office? It is ironic that Trewhitt used Kennedy as the counterexample to age, positing him as young and vigorous. While youth and vigor were the Kennedy campaign brand, that was not Kennedy's condition at the time. Would we today consider John F. Kennedy unfit for office owing to his heavy dependence on an "extraordinary variety of medications" for a wide range of serious physical conditions?

While these are all good questions, it is almost impossible to have a discussion of the issues in a political context. The answers are predetermined by one's partisanship, not by query and evidence.

While I did not read Begley's original charge sheet, I did read Donald Trump: Cognitive decline or TDS? by Mark Liberman. Liberman is a professor of linguistics at my alma mater, University of Pennsylvania. Liberman is skeptical of Begley's thesis on methodological grounds. Begley appears to have made her criticism by creating a possible hypothesis rather than working the scientific method to create a plausible argument.

STAT may have reviewed decades of Donald Trump’s on-air interviews, but what’s presented in the article is a scant handful of anecdotes. There’s one example of a verbal flub from an (unidentified) interview in May of 2017; 41 seconds of a Larry King interview from 1987; 13 seconds from another unidentified NBC News interview “earlier this month”; a hundred words of transcript from an unidentified “interview with the Associated Press last month”; and one or two other fragments. Begley asserts that
[L]inguistic decline is also obvious in two interviews with David Letterman, in 1988 and 2013, presumably with much the same kind of audience. In the first, Trump threw around words such as “aesthetically” and “precarious,” and used long, complex sentences. In the second, he used simpler speech patterns, few polysyllabic words, and noticeably more fillers such as “uh” and “I mean.”
This comparison between 1988 and 2013 brought to mind a post from November 6th, 2014, When progress doesn't at first seem like progress. In it I note research indicating "Presidential speeches have been declining in complexity since 1800, with a big drop in complexity circa 1925." In 1800, presidential speeches came in as college level in their structural complexity and vocabulary choice. In recent decades they are at a sixth-grade level.

Under Begley's position, our presidential cognitive capability has declined by more than half since the beginning of Republic. While there is a certain nostalgic attachment to the idea of declinism, I do not think such an indulgence is sustainable when you look at the academic, military, commercial, and political achievements of Eisenhower, Kennedy, Bush I, Clinton, Bush II, etc. No fools they, regardless of how you might assess their policy or moral conditions.

Conceding those accomplishments highlights a fundamental weakness of Begley's position. As I note in When progress doesn't at first seem like progress, presidential speech complexity did not decline because presidents became cognitively more disabled. The speeches became simpler as the electorate expanded from educated property owners to all citizens. Presidents deliberately simplified their speech patterns.

Occam's Razor suggests that what is true historically might also be true for individuals. In 1988 Donald Trump was a property and casino developer, also involved in event promotions (wrestling and boxing). 1988 was also his first consideration whether to run for the presidency (he did not). It would hardly be surprising that since 1988, his speech patterns and habits would have changed. He became a daily radio talk show host from 2004-2008. He was executive producer and star of a reality show, The Apprentice from 2003 to 2015. He owned and ran the Miss Universe pageant from 1996 till 2015.

One would expect his speech patterns to morph from those acceptable in the boardroom and at the negotiating table to patterns more pertinent to a wide American and global audience. I am making no argument as to whether those patterns should be deemed appropriate or effective, simply that you would expect there to have been change. Begley has to disentangle changes resulting from changed audiences and changed contexts to changes that might be arising from cognitive function (her thesis).

As far as I can tell, she makes no effort to disentangle these confounding variables and therefore her thesis remains possible but not yet plausible.

Liberman reaches the same conclusion but on methodological grounds.
So Begley and her mostly-unnamed “experts in neurolinguistics and cognitive assessment, as well as psychologists and psychiatrists” might be right to wave their hands at “a neurodegenerative disease or the normal cognitive decline that comes with aging”. But the evidence that they offer is anecdotal at best, without even citations or links to let readers check out the context of the anecdotes.
J.W. Brewer, in the comments, makes a point not dissimilar to mine:
I am fascinated to note that three out of the four things “indicative of dementia” according to Fraser et al as summarized in the Neurocritic blog post linked above sound exactly like things a fully cognitively-competent person might deliberately do in order to communicate more effectively to a comparatively unsophisticated audience of oh let’s say swing voters in a swing state.

“Semantic impairment – using overly simple words”
“Acoustic impairment – e.g., speaking more slowly”
“Syntactic impairment – using less complex grammar”

I expect my own idiolect is different in all sorts of ways from Trump’s earlier idiolect as exhibited in the vintage talking-to-Letterman clips, but I certainly suspect that I would not be a particularly effective giver of political stump speeches to an audience of median American registered voters, not least on account of how, left to my own devices, I almost certainly (as judged for optimal rapport with that sort of audience): a) use too many complicated/obscure words; b) talk too fast; and c) use unduly complex or convoluted syntax. If for some improbable reason I wanted to learn to communicate effectively to that sort of audience in that sort of context, I would need a lot of coaching to help me develop all three of those “impairments.”

Friday, May 26, 2017

Charming and vivacious

We attended, this morning, the funeral and celebration of life of a charming, vivacious woman who was a model of good cheer, happy acceptance, and respectful interest in people, Sally Tyler Lehr.

There were five or six hundred people in attendance and the service was very much a joyous celebration of life.
A beloved Emory University professor, mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and friend, Sally lived with intention and loved well. She will be remembered by many for her infectious smile, her great sense of humor, and her unconditional love for everyone she met.
In that wonderful Southern way, it was a service of stories. Stories humorous, illuminating and touching.

Among her many roles, Sally was a professor of nursing at Emory University. There were many, many touching moments in the service, but among the most touching was when the euologist asked everyone who had been a student of hers to stand and perhaps fifty or so women rose. Women from fresh young students to matrons of established years. What a legacy. We will miss her.

A full memory of her is here.

Every year he drank a glass of wine in observance of the anniversary of the battle of Antietam

From The Metaphysical Club by Louis Menand. Menand opens with a discussion of one of the founding members of the Metaphysical Club, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was an officer in the Union Army. He stood six feet three inches tall and had a soldierly bearing. In later life, he loved to use military metaphors in his speeches and his conversation; he didn't mind being referred to good-naturedly as Captain Holmes; and he wore his enormous military mustaches until his death, in 1935, at the age of ninety-three. The war was the central experience of his life, and he kept its memory alive. Every year he drank a glass of wine in observance of the anniversary of the battle of Antietam, where he had been shot in the neck and left, briefly behind enemy lines, for dead.

But Holmes hated the war. He was twenty years old and weighed just 136 pounds at the time of his first battle, at Ball's Bluff, where he was shot through the chest. He fought bravely and he was resilient, but he was not strong in a brute sense, and as the war went on the physical ordeal was punishing. He was wounded three times in all, the third time in an engagement leading up to the battle of Chancellorsville, when he was shot in the foot. He hoped the foot would have to be amputated so he could be discharged, but it was spared, and he served out his commission. Many of his friends were killed in battle, some of them in front of his eyes. Those glasses of wine were toasts to pain.

Holmes recovered from the wounds. The effects of the mental or-deal were permanent. He had gone off to fight because of his moral beliefs, which he held with singular fervor. The war did more than make him lose those beliefs. It made him lose his belief in beliefs. It impressed on his mind, in the most graphic and indelible way, a certain idea about the limits of ideas. This idea he stuck to, with a grimness and, at times, a cynicism that have occasionally repelled people who have studied his life and thought. But it is the idea that underlies many of the opinions he wrote, long after the war ended, as an associate justice on the United States Supreme Court. To understand the road Holmes had to travel in order to write those opinions, we have to go back to one of the worlds the Civil War made obsolete, the world of prewar Boston.

Predictive capacities tend to select for unpredictability in counter-strategies

From Protean primates: The evolution of adaptive unpredictability in competition and courtship by Geoffrey Miller
From the Abstract:
Machiavellian intelligence evolves because it lets primates predict and manipulate each others’ behavior. But game theory suggests that evolution will not stop there: predictive capacities tend to select for unpredictability in counter-strategies, just as many competitive games favor “mixed” (stochastic) strategies. For example, prey animals often evolve “protean” (adaptively unpredictable) evasion behavior to foil the predictive pursuit tactics used by their predators. The same adaptive logic should apply to more abstract social tactics, but protean social behavior remains overlooked in primatology and psychology, because complex order rather than useful chaos has been considered the hallmark of evolved adaptations. This chapter reviews the notions of psychological selection from evolutionary theory, mixed strategies from game theory, and protean behavior from behavioral ecology. It then presents six possible types of social proteanism in primates, and develops a model of how sexual selection through mate choice could have elaborated primate social proteanism into human creative intelligence.
An interesting proposition. It certainly seems plausible. However, the world is full of things which are plausible not true and of things which are true but not plausible. Now all we need is the evidence to support the proposition.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Grace, honour, praise, delight

From Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais. Rabelais describes a type of cognitive utopia called, Abbey of Thélème. On the entrance gate to the Abbey there is this inscription.
Grace, honour, praise, delight,
Here sojourn day and night.
Sound bodies lined
With a good mind,
Do here pursue with might
Grace, honour, praise, delight.
Rabelais describes the Abbey:
All their life was spent not in laws, statutes, or rules, but according to their own free will and pleasure. They rose out of their beds when they thought good; they did eat, drink, labour, sleep, when they had a mind to it and were disposed for it. None did awake them, none did offer to constrain them to eat, drink, nor to do any other thing; for so had Gargantua established it. In all their rule and strictest tie of their order there was but this one clause to be observed,
Do What Thou Wilt;
because men that are free, well-born, well-bred, and conversant in honest companies, have naturally an instinct and spur that prompteth them unto virtuous actions, and withdraws them from vice, which is called honour. Those same men, when by base subjection and constraint they are brought under and kept down, turn aside from that noble disposition by which they formerly were inclined to virtue, to shake off and break that bond of servitude wherein they are so tyrannously enslaved; for it is agreeable with the nature of man to long after things forbidden and to desire what is denied us.
Regrettably, I suspect our stockpiles of honor are dangerously low. Otherwise this might work.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Health conundrum

From Is Preventive Care Worth the Cost? Evidence from Mandatory Checkups in Japan by Toshiaki Iizuka, Katsuhiko Nishiyama, Brian Chen, Karen Eggleston. The abstract:
Using unique individual-level panel data, we investigate whether preventive medical care triggered by health checkups is worth the cost. We exploit the fact that biomarkers just below and above a threshold may be viewed as random. We find that people respond to health signals and increase physician visits. However, we find no evidence that additional care is cost effective. For the “borderline type” (“pre-diabetes”) threshold for diabetes, medical care utilization increases but neither physical measures nor predicted risks of mortality or serious complications improve. For efficient use of medical resources, cost effectiveness of preventive care must be carefully examined.
This is consistent with much other data I have seen, including natural experiments such as in Oregon. All are either dispositive or ambiguous about the benefit of preventive care.

It is an interesting question. I have been monitoring this and related issues ever since the mid-eighties. As a management consultant I had a Fortune 500 client. It was tangential to my project but they were at that time questioning the investments they had made in employee fitness centers. The justification in part rested on an anticipated improvement in employee health if they were able to more easily access health/exercise centers. It was thought that the monetary investment in fitness centers would be offset by declines in health costs. Fitter, healthier employees should have lower health costs, right?

Their actual experience was that they expended money to build the exercise centers. Employees used the centers but not to quite the extent that they had anticipated. The problem was that they did not see any linkage whatsoever between investments in exercise/health centers and declines in health costs.

And that, in many fashions, seems to have been the pattern since then. It is logical that better fitness and preventative care ought to lower long term healthcare costs but it is hard to find robust evidence that that is actually what happens.

Lamenting the death of expertise is lamenting the loss of power

Tom Nichols has a new book out, The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. I have not read it but have read the original essay from which the book is derived, the eponymous Death of Expertise.

Nichols is a deeply knowledgeable individual but the original essay struck me as an articulation of the arrogance which has become such a force in our governance and to which, I suspect, many voters are reacting. It came across as a plea that the peasants should leave the thinking to the, well, to the experts.
I am (or at least think I am) an expert. Not on everything, but in a particular area of human knowledge, specifically social science and public policy. When I say something on those subjects, I expect that my opinion holds more weight than that of most other people.


I fear we are witnessing the “death of expertise”: a Google-fueled, Wikipedia-based, blog-sodden collapse of any division between professionals and laymen, students and teachers, knowers and wonderers – in other words, between those of any achievement in an area and those with none at all. By this, I do not mean the death of actual expertise, the knowledge of specific things that sets some people apart from others in various areas. There will always be doctors, lawyers, engineers, and other specialists in various fields. Rather, what I fear has died is any acknowledgement of expertise as anything that should alter our thoughts or change the way we live.

This is a very bad thing. Yes, it’s true that experts can make mistakes, as disasters from thalidomide to the Challenger explosion tragically remind us. But mostly, experts have a pretty good batting average compared to laymen: doctors, whatever their errors, seem to do better with most illnesses than faith healers or your Aunt Ginny and her special chicken gut poultice. To reject the notion of expertise, and to replace it with a sanctimonious insistence that every person has a right to his or her own opinion, is silly.
While there are many points in his essay with which I agree, there are as many, or more, with which I disagree. He concludes:
Expertise is necessary, and it’s not going away. Unless we return it to a healthy role in public policy, we’re going to have stupider and less productive arguments every day. So here, presented without modesty or political sensitivity, are some things to think about when engaging with experts in their area of specialization.
1. We can all stipulate: the expert isn’t always right.

2. But an expert is far more likely to be right than you are. On a question of factual interpretation or evaluation, it shouldn’t engender insecurity or anxiety to think that an expert’s view is likely to be better-informed than yours. (Because, likely, it is.)

3. Experts come in many flavors. Education enables it, but practitioners in a field acquire expertise through experience; usually the combination of the two is the mark of a true expert in a field. But if you have neither education nor experience, you might want to consider exactly what it is you’re bringing to the argument.

4. In any discussion, you have a positive obligation to learn at least enough to make the conversation possible. The University of Google doesn’t count. Remember: having a strong opinion about something isn’t the same as knowing something.

5. And yes, your political opinions have value. Of course they do: you’re a member of a democracy and what you want is as important as what any other voter wants. As a layman, however, your political analysis, has far less value, and probably isn’t — indeed, almost certainly isn’t — as good as you think it is.
I agree - opinions aren't facts. So why do I disagree with so much of the essay?

Till now I simply left this unanswered. Too many other useful questions to answer first. But I came across an essay, The Expertocracy by Barton Swaim which helped crystalize the issues. I think my objection to Nichols' argument comes down to four elements which I do not think are taken into account in the original article.
Expertise in static and/or simple systems versus expertise in dynamic and/or complex systems.

Credentials versus expertise.

Variance in goals of individuals.

Inclination of experts to prognosticate beyond their realm of expertise.
In many field of expertise, there are bounds on that expertise which allow one to develop not only knowledge but also practice. One can become an expert plumber or an expert orthopedic surgeon because there are limits to the domain of knowledge. Only so much can happen to a leg, only so much variance in a system of plumbing. This is not to deny that those bounds might be broad and complicated, but it acknowledges that those boundaries exist. You can study in the classroom to know everything that there is useful to know and then you can practice to become familiar with the applied knowledge.

On the other hand, there are also innumerable fields of knowledge for which there are no bounds or for which the system is dynamic and complex. It is always changing and exogenous forces impinge to a much greater degree. Politics, diplomacy, sociology, culture, psychology, language, economics, education, etc. Basically, most human systems.

You can know a great deal about these topics. You can be an expert. However, because they are dynamic and complex and subject to exogenous forces, the variability of outcome can be enormous, no matter how much you know. Paul Krugman, winner of the Clark Medal in Economics and the Nobel Prize in Economics, is indisputably an expert. He knows his stuff. But economics is complex, dynamic, and subject to exogenous events.

On election night, as markets plunged on the unexpected news that Donald Trump had won the election, Paul Krugman offered his expert opinion of what was likely to happen.
It really does now look like President Donald J. Trump, and markets are plunging. When might we expect them to recover?

Frankly, I find it hard to care much, even though this is my specialty. The disaster for America and the world has so many aspects that the economic ramifications are way down my list of things to fear.

Still, I guess people want an answer: If the question is when markets will recover, a first-pass answer is never.
A forecast which was almost immediately invalidated by a strong and continuing market rally over many months. Krugman is routinely wrong about many economic things. It is wrong to say he is ignorant, and it is too easy to say that he is simply a partisan commentator. You can know a great deal about economics and still wrestle with making reliably useful forecasts of cause and consequence. It is the nature of a boundless, complex, dynamic system that is consequentially affected by exogenous events.

Credentialism is another bane. There are many people who have credentials but who do not know what they are talking about. I am not sure that needs much elaboration other than to say that with the rise in university attendance, credentialism has become even more prevalent than in the past.

A most critical issue is the totalitarian mindset which admits only one set of goals. However arrived at, there are only one set of goals and all knowledge/expertise is purposed towards achieving those goals. It puts the personal preferences of the expert above those of everyone else.

Keeping with the theme of economics, most mainstream economists are reasonably ardent in their support for unfettered global trade or at least managed trade. And they are perfectly correct - free trade leads to better allocation of resources, reduced waste, and rising prosperity for the global system. But, critically, not for every person.

When trade restrictions fall, there will always be some group of people who suffer from the changes. The expert in global trade can afford to make decisions about global trade because they will not be affected by those changes. Those who will lose their jobs and their communities might be willing to accept a marginally lower standard of living in order to maintain their communities and livelihoods.

The final weakness in the argument for deference to experts is that experts never stay within their domains of expertise. They have opinions about many things, most, necessarily, being unrelated to their expertise. They trade on their expertise in one field in order to gain power or influence in a separate field in which they have an interest but not expertise.

The above case of Krugman is likely an example of this. Yes, he is an expert in economics but he is also a rabid political partisan who hates conservatives in general and Republicans in particular. His forecast that markets would never recover from the election of Donald Trump was almost certainly not an expert economic opinion, though issued under the color of authority of expertise, but rather a passionate partisan comment. A comment on politics, a field in which he has no expertise.

UPDATE: A related argument is being made in On truth: A revolt against deference by Frank Furedi