Expert Opinions

I’m listening to Paul Krugman as a guest on Tom Ashbrook’s On Point. Krugman is talking about his new book, in which he proposes solutions for ending our current economic crisis. Ashbrook acknowledges that Krugman holds a controversial position – many agree with his calls for more government spending, but many oppose his view, claiming the past few years have actually proved Krugman wrong. Before the first break, as is his mode, Ashbrook asks the audience for its opinion on the matter at hand.

I appreciate that Ashbrook engages his audience, but I wonder if this is a part of the problem, part of the reason we have a political atmosphere inimical to any sort of solution. My opinion about Paul Krugman’s economic recommendations shouldn’t really be worth much at all. And for the most part, I don’t want to know what other people think either. I want to trust the experts, the people who study economics all day, and especially those experts that have a Nobel prize.

Obviously other economists could call in to the program, and I suppose I should make a distinction between those listeners asking questions and those stating their opinons. The first two callers seemed well-informed and asked what sounded like thoughtful questions, but I think my objection stands nonetheless. Should anyone in the media be encouraging the application of belief to complicated issues of economic policy? More broadly, and leaving Ashbrook’s minor question aside, when should we trust the experts? When should we trust our own, ill-formed opinions?

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