Fast track to tyranny

I was listening to the wonderful, charming and intelligent Richard Curtis being interviewed yesterday at breakfast time and he said something that made me choke on my porridge. He suggested that the world’s problems could all be solved if we got rid of elected politicians and replaced them with experts. The doctors would cure all the world’s diseases, the teachers would improve education, etc, etc, and nobody would start any wars (he obviously didn’t include soldiers in his list of experts).

Nice thinking, Richard, but putting experts in charge sounds to me like a fast track to tyranny. Who would choose the experts? Maybe they could choose amongst themselves, but who would choose which kinds of experts to include? Richard evidently doesn’t want any soldiers, but other people might regard defence as a key function of government. Would you include religious experts? Experts on plumbing? Experts on blogging? And who would decide how much money to give to the doctors, etc?

Even more importantly, what happens when something goes wrong? The doctors make a mistake and something bad happens. Do they own up to their mistake? Why would they, when they’re the experts? Nobody else knows any better. Better to just carry on as before. What if a dissenting doctor tells them they’re doing something wrong? Listen to that voice, or just carry on as before? After all, they’re the experts, they know best.

Worst of all, this style of government assumes that experts actually know the best solution to every problem. The history of the world tells us that we always make mistakes. We learn by trying out different things and seeing what works best. Sometimes we have to make really huge mistakes in order to advance. Experts would never allow that.

Experts imprisoned Galileo. Experts ridiculed Einstein’s Theory of Relativity. Einstein himself opposed the Quantum Theory. Experts screw up in mammoth ways all the time.

So putting experts in charge wouldn’t just lead to tyranny and corruption. It would also lead to stagnation and incompetence.

Although I have big concerns about democracy, I’d choose messy democratic government with inept, bungling politicians in preference to anybody who insists that they “know” what’s best for us.

Of course, I could be completely wrong about this.

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