Ron Paul and the Empire of Experts

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What is it
about Ron Paul that attracts as many and as diverse a group of people
as are repelled?

For a number
of people, right and left, it is his consistent opposition to
the Iraq war.

It is a good
reason. Moral courage allied with wisdom is as much in short supply
these days as chastity at a political convention.

For others,
it is Paul's fiscal responsibility.

Dr. No has
been pursing his lips at every form of political candy offered by
the junk food vendors at the Capital. While many of his colleagues
are letting out their belts, the wiry obstetrician is running marathons
at 71.

While they
keep getting caught in what used to be called "indiscretions,"
he has been married for fifty years. We would be foolish to judge
people by the externals of their lives, for saints and sinners,
puritans and bohemians not only cohabit, they frequently snuggle
under the same skin. Nonetheless, it's a relief to have a few people
around in politics to remind us that it's also perfectly all right
to live uneventfully, even stodgily.

I say this
as someone who has spent a large part of her life among musicians,
writers, and now, financial newsletter writers – whose professional
lives depend on their eccentricity and even contrariness.

There is however
one critical difference between selling financial advice and intellectual
nostrums on the one hand and delivering babies on the other — which
is what Dr. Paul has done for most of his professional life. The
success of obstetrics is pretty easy to ascertain. Either the child
breathes and lives — or it doesn't.

One can't be
a good obstetrician on theory alone. The practice is all.

Check the track
record of the average stock tout and you might find nothing but
bankruptcy filings and credit card debt. That, of course, will count
for little with the tout's avid customers who would mortgage their
four walls and roof for his advice. And toss in their wives as a
bonus.

As for the
pedant, you wish he'd trip over one of his obtuse, meandering sentences
and break his scrawny neck before he stuck it into the real world.
But does anyone care? No. His pet theories may have driven the nation
into premature recession if not down-right impotence, but the expert
will be given not only an Institute
of his very own at some Ivy League, but the whole Earth
along
with it to run as he wishes.

There, winsome
coeds will no doubt ornament every step of his way to a Nobel Prize.

Theory is easy.
Any biped with a larynx and functioning synapses can come up with
one.

It is practice
that separates the goats from the sheep.

And that is
the principal reason that the pundits are afraid of that revolution
of the people that is the rise of Ron Paul.

Ron Paul wants
to put the practice of citizenry back in the hands of citizens and
take it away from the theorists.

Oh, the critics
will tell you differently. They will tell you that Ron Paul is a
theorist himself — and a crack-pot theorist as well. A patron of
fringe economics. A gentlemanly loon. Or at least, dangerously far
out on the right bank of the mainstream.

Since the mainstream
has just finished wrecking a whole country abroad in a manner that
Genghis Khan would have been proud of and is busy adding yet another
to its sights; and since, in the meantime it's also managed to find
the time to dismantle several centuries worth of legal structure
at home, you wonder why anyone would worry about that anyway.

But there you
have the sad truth about man. He isn't much concerned about anything
besides how other people think of him. That's all he thinks about
all day long. For that he sweats and schleps, roils and toils. Status.
Image. In groups. Out groups. Pariahs. Brahmins. The sum total of
it all is — what does the other fellow think of me?

Right or wrong
counts for far less. His conscience or soul for nothing at all.
If he feels a pang, he swigs gelusil and turns on the hypnotic lights
of his TV set.

And why? Because
with no real, concrete practical knowledge anywhere between his
ears, his skull rings with the lethal chatter of newspaper headlines
and talk shows.

The patter
of Those Who Know Better.

Hedge-fund
managers who promise that all risk can be ironed out of your portfolio
and make you pay for the wrinkles that aren't.

Political scientists
who invade a country from their desktops but don't know how to boot
it up again when it crashes.

Hucksters who
dream up great stories for their products — and make a punch line
out of the patsies who buy them.

We live in
an empire run by experts.

But in the
empire of experts, the man with horse sense is king.

And Ron Paul
has horse sense.

The horse sense
of mustangs, not geldings.

The kind of
horse sense that bucks and sends you for a toss just when you thought
you have everything under control. The horse sense that stops you
from thinking about things so far off you couldn’t possibly have
spotted them – while tripping over things so close by you shouldn’t
ever have missed them.

The experts
would have you believe that they can control your life and the life
of entire nations by thinking long enough and hard enough about
it. This is a theory so full of holes, it puts Swiss cheese to shame.

Studies have
even shown (Philip Tetlock, Expert
Political Judgment — How Good Is It? How Can We Know?
) that
canny laymen do as well as experts when it comes to predicting the
future. In fact, many do even better.

But it's the
experts who have broken us in.

The reason
is simple. Experts promise us a simple sharp tool to dissect the
complexity of the real world. But a dissection that thorough can
only be a post-mortem. Cut through the warm body of society that
fiercely and you turn it into a cadaver.

 

 

Buy
this book.

 
 

Gray is all
theory, says Mephistopheles, in Goethe's
Faust.
The golden tree of life is green.

We will improve
on the devil. Between book covers, theory may be gray — but it is
an intricate gossamer of gray — like the tracery in a Gothic cathedral
or the mysterious depths of an engraving by Gustave
Dore
.

We have no
quarrel with it. Indeed, we have a weakness for it, as for all rich,
superfluous things.


 

Buy
this book.

 

 
 

But a map is
not a road, and a silhouette is not a human being. The trouble begins
when experts
begin to take their expertise so seriously that they forfeit their
own road sense and their readers’. When they are so neutered by
their reasoning that they cannot act — or worse yet, cannot desist
from acting. And the trouble grows into disaster when their credulous
followers, junkies of every news and TV show, rush behind them like
rats
behind the Hamelin piper — into every frippery and fad, every financial
folly and military madness.

And that is
what we have today in our empire of experts.

Worse than
any war — which must at some point end — is the ideology that makes
for war.

For
that can go on forever. That tells us that "what is"
is also "what must be." You
see, empires are made for experts as experts are made for empires.
Without their theories to hold it up, the flimsy scaffold of government
would fall of its own feebleness. And without that scaffold, the
little men on top would be cut down to the same size as the rest
of us.

And that, my
friends, is the real reason why the
experts fear Dr. Paul and the people love him.

September
4, 2007

Lila Rajiva
[send her mail] is the
author of the ground-breaking study, The
Language of Empire: Abu Ghraib and the American Media
(MR
Press, 2005), and the co-author with Bill Bonner of Mobs,
Messiahs and Markets
(Wiley, 2007). Visit her
blog.

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