The Right Coast

February 07, 2005
Experts beware
By Tom Smith

This is what it looks like when an expert gets beat up by a smartish journalist. Ouch-o-rama. I'm just a simple country law professor, but whenever an expert starts reminding you that he is an expert, it is usually just before some smarty pants takes him apart by showing that he is rooting for one side or the other, contradicts himself, or whatever. One of the big challenges of leadership is knowing when to pay attention to experts and when to ignore them.

Something a lot of academic experts don't seem to understand is that the rules are different -- and thank God they are -- in public political controversy than they are at the academic conference. Assumptions that won't be questioned in the academy might be ruthlessly exposed in the rough and tumble of public debate. Lines of argument that lead to counterintuitive to most people results will count against you, not for you. Preening superiority is detested, not admired. It's a different world. Not better. That would be a value judgment. Just different.