Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Our Nation's Non-Playing Captains

Actual smart guy Nassim Nicholas Taleb tears into the self-appointed genius class:
What we have been seeing worldwide, from India to the UK to the US, is the rebellion against the inner circle of no-skin-in-the-game policymaking “clerks” and journalists-insiders, that class of paternalistic semi-intellectual experts with some Ivy league, Oxford-Cambridge, or similar label-driven education who are telling the rest of us 1) what to do, 2) what to eat, 3) how to speak, 4) how to think… and 5) who to vote for.
But the problem is the one-eyed following the blind: these self-described members of the “intelligenzia” can’t find a coconut in Coconut Island, meaning they aren’t intelligent enough to define intelligence hence fall into circularities — but their main skill is capacity to pass exams written by people like them. With psychology papers replicating less than 40%, dietary advice reversing after 30 years of fatphobia, macroeconomic analysis working worse than astrology, the appointment of Bernanke who was less than clueless of the risks, and pharmaceutical trials replicating at best only 1/3 of the time, people are perfectly entitled to rely on their own ancestral instinct and listen to their grandmothers (or Montaigne and such filtered classical knowledge) with a better track record than these policymaking goons.
It's all good but the key point is track record. The thing with our elite is that most of them don't seem to have ever actually done anything especially elite. Their qualification for elite status is based on a tautology: they're elite because they're the type of person who's in the elite, and if you don't buy that, well, it just proves you're too stoopid to understand anyway.

Needless to say, even these guys don't find their arguments all that convincing. Hence their constant desire to run down people with actual skills. Take the obsession with pushing ludicrous allegations of war crimes. This makes way more sense once you realise it's all down to our elites's jealousy and fear of people who really have been tested under maximum conditions, and in service of their country too.

Similarly, this is where the whole 'skin in the game' thing comes in. The point is not just that the elite are free to indulge in ludicrous virtue signalling, knowing full well they'll never have to deal with the consequences, it's that they very lunacy of their ideas is part of the attraction. They're advertising the fact that no matter how bad things get, it won't affect them. It's a subtle form of status signalling.


JuliaM said...

"The thing with our elite is that most of them don't seem to have ever actually done anything especially elite. "

Whereas people like Lord Sugar and Trump are derided because they ran successful companies...

Anonymous said...

Jon - are you on Disqus? Have you thought about adding it to the blog?