Don't Put Too Much Faith in the Experts

“There is no such thing as expertise on the future.”


Between 2 million and 3 million Americans will die!

That was the prediction from "experts" at London's Imperial College when COVID-19 began. They did also say if there was "social distancing of the whole population," the death toll could be cut in half, but 1.1 million to 1.46 million Americans would still die by this summer.

Our actual death toll has been about one-tenth of that.

Nevertheless, Imperial College's model was extremely influential.

Politicians issued stay-at-home orders. They said we must trust the "experts."

"Follow the science. Listen to the experts. Do what they tell you," said Joe Biden, laughing at what he considered an obvious truth.

But "there is no such thing as 'the science!'" replies science reporter Matt Ridley in my new video about "expert" predictions. "Science consists of people disagreeing with each other!"

The lockdowns, he adds, were "quite dangerously wrong."

Because Imperial's model predicted that COVID-19 would overwhelm hospitals, patients were moved to nursing homes. The coronavirus then spread in nursing homes.

Ordering almost every worker to stay home led to an economic collapse that may have killed people, too.

"The main interventions that helped prevent people dying were stopping large gatherings, people washing their hands and wearing face masks, general social distancing—not forcing people to stay home," says Ridley.

Even New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo now admits: "We all failed at that business. All the early national experts: 'Here's my projection model.' They were all wrong."

If he and other politicians had just done just a little research, then they would have known that Imperial College researchers repeatedly predict great disasters that don't happen. Their model predicted 65,000 deaths from swine flu, 136,000 from mad cow disease, and 200 million from bird flu.

The real numbers were in the hundreds.

After such predictions were repeatedly wrong, why did politicians boss us around based on those same "experts" models?

"If you say something really pessimistic about how many people are going to die," explains Ridley, "the media want to believe you. The politicians daren't not believe you."

This bias towards pessimism applies to fear of climate change, too.

Thirty-two years ago, climate "experts" said rising seas would "completely cover" the islands of the Maldives "in the next 30 years." But now, 32 years later, the islands are not only still there, they're doing better than ever. They're even building new airports.

"Climate change is real," says Ridley, "but it's not happening nearly as fast as models predicted."

Models repeatedly overpredict disaster because that's "a very good way of attracting attention to your science and getting rewarded for it," says Ridley.

One more example: For years, "experts" predicted an oil shortage. President Jimmy Carter warned, "The oil and natural gas we rely on for 75 percent of our energy are simply running out." All the "experts" agreed.

But as the demand for oil grew, oil prices rose. That inspired entrepreneurs to invent new ways of getting more oil and gas out of the same rocks. They succeeded so well that America now has so much oil and gas that we sell some to other countries.

Ridley's new book, How Innovation Works, shows how innovators prove "experts" wrong all the time.

He points out that the founder of Digital Equipment Corporation once said: "There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home."

Microsoft's CEO confidently said: "There's no chance the iPhone is going to get significant market share."

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote that because "most people have nothing to say to each other…the Internet's impact on the economy (will be) no greater than the fax machine's."

Of course, not all experts are wrong. Useful experts do exist. I want a trained civil engineer to design any bridge I cross.

But Ridley points out: "There is no such thing as expertise on the future. It's dangerous to rely too much on models (which lead politicians to) lock down society and destroy people's livelihood. Danger lies both ways."


NEXT: Betraying Trump, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch Stay Loyal to the Law

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  2. The problem isn’t government’s reaction to the virus, it’s that there was a reaction at all. The function of government is to defend liberty, period. We MUST prohibit it from initiating force.

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    2. Exactly. This problem falls outside of the role of government. As I have written before, it’s not “Safety” that is emblazoned on our coins. It’s “Liberty.” Forcing millions of people into house arrest, the forced closure and willful destruction of family businesses, many of which will never recover, along with the deliberate destruction of the country’s economy, do not constitute “Liberty.”

      FDR really screwed us. Before he came along, people still understood that government was not the universal solution to any problem that existed. Ever since his time in office, people reflexively look to the government as the center of everything, the benevolent fixer of any problems you may have (like the “problem” of people of Japanese ancestry being free. He fixed that one).

      Of course, FDR was a member of the federal government, and it is the states that have treated liberty as a puppy treats newspaper on the floor, but that is still a function of people thinking that the existence of any problem whatsoever demonstrates the need for more government, more restrictions, more laws, more handcuffs, more prison.

      The same people who want to defund the police for being too oppressive are begging for more government oppression to make them feel better about a disease not terribly stronger than the flu. Every law, every action of government is about creating more oppression. That’s all a government, any government, is capable of doing… oppression is the product that is manufactured by governments. If you want more oppression, get more government.

      The premise we’re given is that the oppression will be directed at individuals who the majority think need more oppressing (if that doesn’t sound sinister, you need to pay more attention), such as people who want to open their business or to not be caged at home without due process of law. The overarching trend, though, is that there are so many individuals that some other group thinks are in need of oppression that it ends up being spread in every direction, with people who expected to be on the side of the oppressors being oppressed themselves as purported “criminals,” and never do they realize that this state of affairs is a deterministic, unavoidable function of the big government they helped create.

      Governments remain the biggest and most deadly threat to individuals that can ever be imagined. The only reason we keep them around at all is because the lack of a government creates a vacuum that some despot will opportunistically step into, becoming the next de facto government, quite possibly even worse than the one that came before it. We need enough government to prevent that from happening, but only just. Any more than that and the government starts looking for other nails to hammer in (a hammer being its only tool, as the metaphor goes).

      Heaven forbid we would actually ever ask the government to go hammering things… what an idiotic request that would be. Yet it’s one people make every day… more oppression over here, please and thank you! Now a little over there! You missed a spot!

      1. Agreed. Far too many people look to government for not just information and guidance, but direction and management. These people essentially demand orders to follow (and, not coincidently, orders for others to follow).

        As for FDR, I wonder if it felt natural to him, a true privileged elite, to direct the masses. But certainly enough of the masses wanted direction.

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      2. Now do stop signs.

        Anti-social, impractical, disaffected clingers are among my favorite culture war casualties.

        1. Somebody in my neighborhood turned the stop signs upside down overnight. So I drove through the intersection in reverse.

        2. “Now do stop signs.”
          You stupid shit, do you think private roads and parking lots are full of carnage from people ignoring traffic and directions?
          Are you here to prove how stupid a lefty asshole bigot can be?

          1. Sevo: “Stop signs are of absolutely no use.”

            Heard it here first. The incisive intellectual political movement that we call “libertarianism.”

            1. Shitstain:
              “I can’t read!”

              We know.

        3. Wow, a RALK comment that does not contain the sadistic homoerotic theme of shoving things down people’s throats.

      3. I have to disagree that every law is to create oppression. I want laws against murder, rape, robbery, theft and any other action involving the initiatory use of force. Simply applying the NAP to government by prohibiting it from initiating force would make any oppression impossible.

        1. Just because a principle is simple doesn’t mean it’s true. I know you think you’ve hit on something profound and cosmic, but do consider the flaws of the NAP. It’ll be good for you.


          1. Our ‘sciency’ shitstain here cites Wiki…
            ‘Nuff said.

            1. You are free to judge the merits of the arguments. Or you can i nitpicking about links and grammar and never make a goddamn point about anything. One simply wonders why you waste so much of your life typing stuff but never making any points.

          2. I don’t think any of those so called flaws hold any water. Take the trolley problem are the 5 people on the tracks babies and the one person an octogenarian? How about driving causing pollution? In Libertopia we’ll have flying robot cars powered by electricity generated by a Thorium nuclear reactor and stored in graphene batteries. You can always come up with an absurd hypothetical situation to discredit any idea.

            1. The NAP would prevent you from interfering with the trolley no matter how many people were on the first track, seems to me. The illustration is obviously hypothetical but gets to a core problem of the NAP. You can’t make a lot of the routine choices to act or not act that present themselves every day because of a strict principle of nonaggression that quickly dissolves into absurdity when it applies to the real world.

              The NAP doesn’t permit any pollution. Of course you could always simply declare that pollution is a hoax, which is the route many seem to have chosen.

              1. People tied to train tracks isn’t the real world. I can make the same argument about socialists, fascists, communists and anarchists.
                Some people consider CO2 to be pollution so according to you they should kill everybody then themselves. Again taking things to absurd lengths to discredit an idea undermines you’re argument.

                1. CO2 is very much a pollutant, in the way that any chemical can be a pollutant if there’s too much of it. Or pick your term of choice. It’s bad, it harms people, it’s aggression, and you can’t figure out specifically who’s responsible. That’s the problem with pollution as it relates to the NAP. It’s the NAP that fails, not any idea I’m having.

                  1. So breathing is aggression.

                    1. It’s your dumbass moral system, not mine.

        2. The point of the law against murder is to oppress those who would murder. Most people are in agreement that oppressing murderers is good, but make no mistake, that’s what it is.

      4. One quibble: The lockdown were state government actions and subject to the strictures of the individual states’ constitutions.

      5. Thank you Alexs

    3. I think of the article about San Francisco proposing an ordinance to limit the amount GrubHub and DoorDash and other delivery services can charge and I wonder where the hell we got this idea that it’s any of government’s business what they can charge. Where is the government mandate beyond “to secure these rights”? Where does government get off sticking its nose into every little bit of people’s business? To the extent that people will stand for it, they deserve to be treated like children, even though nobody elected a bureaucrat as a parent and they sure as hell aren’t qualified for the job.

      1. But who can resist living their entire life as a child, especially with indulgent parents? We now have decades of promises from both government and big business that they will provide for us, if we only cede autonomy to them. Marketing has elevated if not worshiped the teenager as the pinnacle of life. Education has pandered to the child, even when the child is 21 and attending “college”. Industrialized democracy has devolved, perhaps inevitably, to a state where factions compete on promising not only free stuff but ideology and emotional comfort.

        Do you really expect a significant number of Americans to stand up and say, “Nah, I will take more personal responsibility and risk, accept living in a disagreeable world, allow others to say and do things I don’t like, and pay my own way”?

    4. I don’t want a government that ignores the safety of the population, nor do I want people making suggestions about how my government should be run who can’t make the connection between liberty and not being dead.

      1. I’m sure North Korea will welcome you with open arms.

        1. So our choice is between an untested anarchic fantasy and North Korea?

          I mean this with all due respect, but are you people all autistic?

          1. How is government limited to the retaliatory use of force anarchic?

            1. Shitstain can’t read.

            2. How is a government that secures so-called positive rights like North Korea?

              1. He also can’t think.

                1. What is in the cornucopia of positive rights that North Korea provides its citizens?

                  1. Three hots and a cot in the prison work camp.

              2. It requires the initiatory use of force.

                1. So literally every government that has ever existed anywhere is the same as North Korea.

                  Am I allowed to be skeptical of this hypothetical government that has not ever existed and by all appearances can’t actually exist?

                  1. Maybe not to the same degree but yes. People were skeptical a government in which the citizens were the sovereigns could exist too but here we are.

          2. Please tell how that response in any way suggests autism in any way. I know more than a bit about the topic, and I don’t see any such signs.

  3. “They did also say if there was “social distancing of the whole population,” the death toll could be cut in half, but 1.1 million to 1.46 million Americans would still die by this summer.”

    That must explain why you failed to provide a link to the study you alleged made that claim.

    Conservatives make many claims about what studies say. Yet when one finally finds the study and reads what it actually says – One usually finds that Conservatives conveniently pretended to forget to mention the caveats and cherry pick the parts they think will help Conservatives peddle their vile evil murderous pro-pollution ideology.

    1. To be fair both sides of an argument will cherry pick data to make their case. Perhaps John Stossel’s point here should be to be careful of those that do the cherry picking. Experts provide information based on the data they have and the uncertainty of that data. While scientist or other experts have points of view, science requires them to follow the data to where it leads them. History is full of scientist who started out to prove one thing only to end up proving something different as they followed the data. It is good to remember that it is not always the expert but others who often take parts of studies to prove a particular point.

      1. “To be fair both sides of an argument will cherry pick data to make their case.”

        Doesn’t your ass hurt from sitting on that fence?

    2. [pick a group] make many claims about what studies say. Yet when one finally finds the study and reads what it actually says – One usually finds that [pick a group] conveniently pretended to forget to mention the caveats and cherry pick the parts they think will help [pick a group] peddle their vile evil murderous ideology

      Am I doing it right? Stop being an assclown.

    3. Hey Dummy… and I call you dummy generously….

      He literally cited the study he was talking about,t he Imperial College study.

      The citation isn’t hard to look up if you have any intelligence at all.

      I mean, I know ignorance is bliss, but you seem to be extra ignorant. To the point that you don’t know how to use a search engine to find an explicitly named study.

      But please, explain how the estimates from Imperial College Study was cherry picked rather than explicitly wrong.

      1. You pretty clearly have not read the IC study. And while you are right that it is a model, you are oblivious to the reality that you are and have been selling a model. A very simple and understandable model – ‘Covid19 = flu’. But because you deny that that is a model but rather is reality itself, you can never actually learn anything. Nor can you understand that that simple model also comes with its own implicit policy prescriptions

        1. Your comment is so fucking stupid I dont even k know where to start.

          I understand the limitations of models far better than you who used very estimates of these mods including high R0 estimates based on incomplete data to formulate your chicken little bullshit. I have always claimed the numbers are closer to a bad flu than they are to the models, which you claimed the opposite. I’m still right while you are not, this is even with reporting data like died with instead of died of.

          You literally made a claim that every new virus will achieve 100% infection and denied the parabolic shape of infection curves claiming covid would stay exponential forever.

          You’re basically an idiot who lies constantly about their original assertions.

          1. You literally made a claim that every new virus will achieve 100% infection and denied the parabolic shape of infection curves claiming covid would stay exponential forever.

            And you as usual can never actually link to where I said either of those things. But hey – keep repeating a big lie and hey presto your ilk soon enough believes it as truth. With the side benefit that it distracts from you having to accept that your model has already proven itself wrong – and we are fucking nowhere near covid19 infecting enough people for ‘herd immunity’ to change the way a virus progresses from then on.

            1. I linked to your bullshit and you simply said ‘my comments weren’t really outrageous’
              Fuck off, you cowardly piece of lefty shit.

              1. I find that hard to believe since I’ve been trying to ignore you for months

                1. Of course you ‘find it hard to believe’; you’re a cowardly piece of lefty shit who hopes to hide it.

          2. You should probably look up what words like “parabolic” mean before you use them, otherwise you end up looking like an idiot. (At least to people who know anything about math…)

        2. And while you are right that it is a model, you are oblivious to the reality that you are and have been selling a model. A very simple and understandable model – ‘Covid19 = flu’.

          Show me, in his post, where he said ‘Covid19 = flu’.

          Nor can you understand that that simple model also comes with its own implicit policy prescriptions

          The implied evil is yours. That’s the issue with implications, they’re never quite clear. Moreover, that’s the idea with models, the more complex ones, with policy prescriptions attached, become inherently less useful. For instances, when someone more clearly and explicitly says:

          Combining all four interventions (social distancing of the entire population, case isolation, household quarantine and school and university closure) is predicted to have the largest impact, short of a complete lockdown which additionally prevents people going to work.

          It’s more clear who had which dumbass policy prescription based on shitty modelling.

          Keep up the ‘holier-than-thou’ routine, it only makes you look more like a lying dumbass.

          1. Show me, in his post, where he said ‘Covid19 = flu’.

            I said that he is oblivious to the reality that that is the model he is selling. You’ve been selling that model too. As have many here. It is NOT reality. It is a MODEL.

            That’s the issue with implications, they’re never quite clear.

            OK – well let me make some of those implicit policy prescriptions of a ‘Covid19=flu’ model explicit:
            1. No policy discussion even needs to be made public. Flu is endemic not pandemic therefore covid19 is endemic not pandemic. There is no risk whatsoever in anything ‘getting out of control’ – because this is endemic not pandemic. Hell it’s clearly been circulating here all last flu season and we’ve all been exposed and are already mostly immune to it.
            2. Absent that public discussion, there is no such thing as a ‘change’ in anything like even voluntary social distancing. Any change in behavior requires some sort of ‘new’ information – but with no public discussion, nothing ‘new’ can enter that discussion – so nothing will change.
            3. The only acceptable public discussion is ‘get your vaccine’. Which does in fact happen every year re flu. And can be ignored as well – since flu is endemic not pandemic. Since there is no covid19 vaccine, that, quite conveniently, renders the only acceptable public discussion not possible.
            4. (Not really part of the model – but absolutely part of denying that the model is merely a model and pretending that it is reality) Anything that violates the above three is not merely challenging a model. It is challenging reality. Fake news. A hoax. An attempt to deceive people. And the only thing that can explain why someone would even want to do that is politics. Some enemy wants to undermine reality itself. And for you R’s that means this is all about the next election.

            1. I said that he is oblivious to the reality that that is the model he is selling. You’ve been selling that model too. As have many here. It is NOT reality. It is a MODEL.

              No, it’s not. It’s your model of what he’s been selling and just as his model misrepresents reality, your model misrepresents his. His misrepresentation is likely unintentional, he can’t account for data he does not know. You, OTOH, are striving to account for data that you *KNOW* you cannot know. Attempting to supplement your model for his and/or reality.

              OK – well let me make some of those implicit policy prescriptions of a ‘Covid19=flu’ model explicit:

              I didn’t read them. They aren’t JesseAz’s model or the implications. They’re yours.

              I’m not here to tell you that more lies don’t make you more honest. I don’t care if “More lies makes me seem more honest” is your model or not, I’m telling you that the evidence suggests that you’re a disingenuous shitbag who *seems to think* he’s got all the answers when, in reality, you’re not any better and in many ways are worse than the rest of us.

              1. Ain’t that – Austrian. Pretend that epidemiology isn’t about disease but is really about epistemology.

      2. Just for the record, the full quote:
        “Where ignorance is bliss, ’tis folly to be wise”.

    4. Report 9 – Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand

      Published 16 Mar 2020

    5. “Give me a link because I’m too lazy to look up the cited study myself”

      “Oh, it’s not published online for free, guess it doesn’t exist!”

    6. Here are the Imperial College studies on Covid19

      #9 and #12 on that page are where these numbers are coming from

      The only useful words in this article are: It’s dangerous to rely too much on models. I would have thought that was obvious by now but transparently it is not.

      Stossel could have written an incisive article that really gets to the valuable point of the headline – Don’t Put Too Much Faith In … That last word can be experts, markets, technocrats, politicians, journalists, parents, God, philosophers, etc. Anything really that gives us a rationale to not pay attention to or acquire knowledge about something while reassuring us that someone else will.

      He chose not to do that. Instead relying on the time-tested ‘the old black-box is garbage’. Which with nothing further to actually challenge the WAY we make these sorts of decisions simply leads to – a new black-box. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

      There is something fundamentally flawed about the way we make decisions about the rules of the ways we agree to interact. I think classical liberals (up to and including Hayek) have always gone in the right direction re changing that.

    7. Just like the MSM, which will almost always cherry pick the worst possible results and broadcast that as if it were a certainty-to-come. Because the worse they can make it, the more scared they can make people, the easier they are to control.

      1. They go in the opposite direction when it comes to nuclear. Any release of any radiation is usually downplayed, not mentioned, or not at high enough levels to make a difference. I’ve heard that part of nuclear crisis management strategy is to say that nothing bad is happening, because the sense is that no one can do anything about it and in order to keep public order, the media will present it as a non-problem if it’s presented at all.

  4. Between 2 million and 3 million Americans will die!

    Pretty sure all Americans will die; just hard to say when.

    1. Steven Wright is still on track to live forever.

      1. Steven write knows when he will die… His birth cirtificate has an expiration date.

        1. Lol.

          “I wear glasses and my prescription ran out….couldn’t see a thing.“

          1. my best friend is only 6 inches tall. he’s a model for trophies.

            1. I woke up one morning, and all of my stuff had been stolen and replaced by exact duplicates.

    2. 2-3 million americans die every year. That is the yearly average. Why 100k is still just statistical noise.

  5. John Stossel notes that we trust some experts like the civil engineer who designs bridges. But that engineer uses models to develop the bridge. Traffic models will tell them the amount of stress the bridge must hold and engineering models will determine the design and materials used. In the end the engineer can not predict the future. If traffic patterns change, if a flood swells the river beneath the bridges, if an earthquake happen, the bridges lifespan may be significantly different than the engineer planned. We can not predict the future, we can anticipate patterns and plan for those.

    1. A model can be extremely useful…or extremely misleading. It depends on the quality of the data and the assumptions built into the model. In the example you give, the models have good data and the assumptions have stood the test of time. That is not something you can always count on.

    2. Engineers can’t predict every possible event, but the models for typical forces are understood and reliable. There have been decades of testing and real world experience. The COVID models were just guesses.

    3. Some models can be validated with emperical data. Those stress and strain models are very accurate. Climate models have not been validated as yet and apparently infectious disease models have also not been validated.

    4. Repeat after me: a model’s value is in its predictive power.

      Which of course varies, from discipline to discipline, from model to model, and from idiot to idiot.

      1. You’re wrong for any model that involves human behavior. The main value of that sort of model is to add insight/knowledge/understanding of POSSIBLE outcomes – that would not be possible without creating some simplified notion of how things flow with what is normally implicit/assumed made explicit.

        It is pure arrogance to either create or criticize that sort of model by pretending that a different sort of model (that deals with laws of physics or chemistry or such) is the only sort of model.

        1. “You’re wrong for any model that involves human behavior.”

          Assertions from cowardly pieces of lefty shit =/= “argument”.

    5. As an Engineer who specializes in 3D models, you never rely on the first iteration of a model. The accuracy of the type of models that I use can be verified through testing and experimentation. You model, test, update the model, test, update the model and so on. The end result usually works very well.
      The models that the article is referring to, have no way to test their validity. They can also be skewed to reflect the beliefs of the modeler or the organization who is funding the modeler.

    6. Yeah but bridges are built 10 times stronger than they need to be just for that reason. I don’t think there’s a built in safety factor when it comes to predicting disease deaths.

      1. That’s because models aren’t used for the purpose of sitting around and watching how things unfold as modeled.

        They are used as an alternative to:
        Oh crap. That really didn’t work did it.
        I’ve got this covered. Here hold my beer.

    7. yes there are many unknowns thats why most engineers build out with a higher percentage of safety. simple house 20% safety margin Bridge 30% to 40% , Nuclear facility 200%+. whats the safety margin for minor viruses, apparently it in the millions. try building a house with that high of a safety margin and it would be unaffordable.

    8. Before Friday, March 20, Marina Kirkeide was a part-time research assistant at the University of Minnesota School of Public Health (SPH), working on human papillomavirus transmission for associate professor Shalini Kulasingam. On a gap year before starting medical school at the University in fall 2020, the College of Science and Engineering alumna also had a second job as a lab tech at St. Paul’s Regions Hospital.

      That Friday, Kulasingam called her and two other research assistants to ask if anyone could “work through the day and night” to get a COVID-19 model to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz the following Monday. They all jumped at the chance.

      “I don’t think a lot of researchers get to work on something over the weekend and have public figures talk about it and make decisions based on it three days later,” said Kirkeide, a four-year recipient of the Patrick F. Flynn Scholarship.

      And yet, that model cranked out by grad students over a weekend cram session was used to guide the state’s response.

      1. Kirkeide, who left her hospital job to focus solely on modeling, feels the responsibility and pressure of such a big project.

        “[In this situation] you don’t have the time to validate as much as you normally would,” she said.

        “You want to get it right the first time,” she said. “And your work has to be really, really quick.”

        Although coronaviruses themselves are not new, each variation of the virus, such as SARS, MERS, and now COVID-19, have no historical precedent, and that makes modeling COVID-19 extra difficult. Kirkeide offers an example of how hard it is to work with unknowns.

        “We have a hospitalization count for people with COVID-19 based on age, and we want to put this in the model in a way that makes sense,” she said. “But we can’t use those numbers to figure out a percentage of those hospitalized with COVID-19 at that age, because we don’t know how many people have undetected illness. So we can’t modify a percentage over time in our model if we don’t have a known total.”

      2. This is a good comment. Thanks.

        The process by which states made their decisions still remains very black box itself. States just seem to have made their decisions and announced them. Nothing has been transparent or has involved citizens or been crowdsourced or anything else that would lead to even awareness by the governed much less consent of the governed. It’s easier to get info re why some foreign countries actually did what they did and how they went about it than it is to get the same info re ourselves.

        Which is great for stoking up the Karen enforcers and the conspiracy nutjobs and the temper tantrum theater. Which is suppose is also better business for those bastions of the 1A. But it doesn’t do much for any attempts to improve what we’re actually doing.

    9. For example, a 100 year floodplain is a model of the future, but everyone knows that it can be wrong. We know 500 year storms happen.

      The problem is that many of our decisions are being made on models of poorly understood processes: disease, climate, and economics. People think the first two are like the floodplain, but they are closer to the economics model, which people rightly trust as far as they can throw it.

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  7. On any controversial subject one can find “experts” on every side of the argument. So the advice to “just listen to the experts” is not as sensible as one might think.

    1. Surely the much bigger fallacy is letting political beliefs determine what evidence you accept.

      1. “Surely the much bigger fallacy is letting political beliefs determine what evidence you accept.”

        You should take your own advice, shitstain.

      2. That’s precisely the problem. Most people “choose” the “expert” that confirms their existing bias. Whenever someone tells you to “just listen to the experts” they’re talking about the “experts” who they prefer.

        1. And some of us weigh the value of that expertise by determining how widely accepted their findings are in the scientific community, while others of us dig around Bumfuckdoodle Alabama trying to find a contrarian.

          1. “And some of us weigh the value of that expertise by determining how widely accepted their findings are in the scientific community,..”

            Yep, all of what is possible to know is known! Anyone who disagrees is from Alabama!

          2. And how do you determine that? Hint: if the same source (e.g. CNN) that’s selling you an “expert” is also where you get your notion that the “expert’s” findings are “widely accepted”, you should do some more research.

            1. I do way more research than I should have to because I am constantly confronted by libertarians throwing fallacies and two-faced weasel arguments at me. Libertarianism could not sustain itself without cherry picking. You start from your premise and seek out what meager evidence exists that may sort of confirm it. I on the other hand attempt not to have political beliefs that aren’t first indicated by evidence. But I don’t get too emotionally invested in such things. All that an alternative political philosophy needs to do to win me over is present convincing evidence in its favor.

  8. I remember when the low end estimate on deaths in the US was 500k, and that’s only if we did everything the experts asked… now we are still panicking over 150k using a died with metric instead of a died of. Good times.

    1. If we get to 80% herd immunity, then 80% of all people in the future will have died with COVID-19

      1. Covid-19 antibodies are not Covid-19, and by the time they die, many of them will probably be clear of the antibodies. They don’t last forever.

    2. Yeah, you made that up. Most models predicted between 120 to 150 by August.

      I hope you contract this and they run out of ventilators.

  9. After contacting the staff at Reason, I’m back…

    Turns out they were allowing impersonators. Duplicate user names. I discovered that someone was posting as ‘sarcasmic’ while I was away. I generally post here as a diversion from work. So that asshat that was using my name on weekends wasn’t me….

    Reason says they fixed the duplicate name issue.

    Anyway, I assume Tulpa succeeded in getting most of y’all to hate me, but whatever. From now on ‘sarcasmic’ is me. Like anyone cares.

    1. impostor, not impersonator

    2. your dreams were your ticket out.

  10. But because governors ordered everyone to stay home, it no longer matters what “the science” says. Once ordered all correct thinking people must forever dutifully comply. We can’t back out now! To do so would cast shame upon the governors! The media backs this up, and “the science” is forbidden to contradict the media narrative.

    We will continue to be locked up until… well indefinitely. Because there are no criteria or milestones or goals. We are locked up on the whim of the governors, and only their whim lets us go free. Temporarily, until the media panics again and they tighten up even harder.

    1. Why would any governor want to keep their state locked down for no reason?

      1. “Why would any governor want to keep their state locked down for no reason?”

        Maybe for a “reason” you ignore.

        1. So give me one reason they might want that.

          1. It’s good to be king!

            1. Occam’s Razor, in the vernacular of my generation, is a thing.

              1. You should make use of it.

                1. “Covid is more likely than not, not a conspiracy of governors.”

                  1. But you can’t imagine them taking advantage of it? Are you still that naive?

                    1. I hope they take advantage of it, because the model of running around like a hysterical orangutan, gazing into the abyss of a November loss, lurching from half-assed conspiracy theories to abject denial of reality doesn’t seem to be working for the guy at the top.

          2. Maybe they think their voters are primarily driven by fear, and the image of a “strong man” governor who uses executive authority to save “even just one life” is totally dreamy, and we shouldn’t be scared to shut down the economy because that’s what welfare is for.

            Actually, when I say it, I think I’ve already heard it somewhere before.

      2. Whenever a politician states his/her reasons for doing something, you can be reasonably sure he/she is lying.

        1. Whenever a libertarian starts expressing a thought, I can be sure it’s probably a conspiracy theory.

          1. Whenever I read a post from shitstain, I’m certain to find some mendacity.

          2. Politicians telling lies and half-truths to promote their own ends is a “conspiracy theory”?

            1. The claim was, I think, that governors prioritize not having to change their mind over protecting their states’ economies, and not a single governor, even the Republican ones in red states, has deviated from this nefarious plan.

              Sure, whatever, just show me the evidence or shut up. Tiresome. So tiresome.

              1. It’s rather hard to provide evidence for a strawman you set up in your head.

      3. Because it give them the jollies to be able to do so?

        The emergency plan that the mayor of Champaign Illinois whipped out virtually overnight at the beginning of the panic…I can only imagine that she had been working on it for years, that it sat in a special red folder in a special locked filing cabinet, poised to be whipped out if she ever could justify using it.

        When COVID came out, she must have quivered with anticipation that this could be the chance and YES! She whipped it out!

        ncluded in the executive order are ordinances that would give the city extraordinary powers to the Mayor.

        Violating parts of the Open Meetings Act
        Ban sale of firearms and ammunition
        Ban sale of any alcohol
        Closing of all bars, taverns, liquor stores, etc
        Ban sale or giving away of gasoline or other liquid flammable or combustible products in any container other than a gasoline tank permanently fixed to a motor vehicle
        Direct the shutoff of power, water, gas, etc
        Take possession of private property and obtain full title to same
        Prohibit or restrict ingress and egress to and from the City

        1. So covid is a hoax and governors are happy to see their economies shut down… for shits and giggles? For Demonrat something something?

          1. Let me try this in language you might understand.

            There are big public school systems (Los Angeles, San Diego, etc.) that are doing virtual-only schooling for children starting next year. So the education of children is being impacted by these shutdowns.

            Not only that, but these “no classroom” orders are not going to affect private schools and home schoolers. Home schoolers will see no change in their education. The hardest hit will be students whose parents cannot facilitate virtual learning: those on the bottom of the socioeconomic ladder where all parents are required to work, or whose parents are not equipped to teach.

            This is not the only “disproportionate impact” of the economic shutdowns.

            So, no, Covid 19 does not have to be a conspiracy for someone to question to wisdom of shutting everything down. It would help if governors showed their work on risk/reward analysis. If they even do it.

            1. Is there someone who disagrees that a pandemic has negative economic and social consequences?

              1. Your questions seem to suggest that anyone who disagrees with Newsom and Cuomo must be conspiracy theorists.

                1. But you’re talking about a non-problem (governors being pressured not to make rational cost-benefit calculations). They are doing that, Republican and Democrat alike. And unfortunately the evidence suggests that the US has been too lax across the board, too willing too fast to open the economy. It’s why our numbers are so terrible compared to the rest of the world.

                  1. Which numbers are those?

                    1. Of infected and dead people.

                    2. You’re making my point: it’s not that simple. There’s complexity here. Nuance, if you will.

                      Saying “I see bad number shut down!” is not “rational cost-benefit calculations”.

                    3. Since governors of both parties are shutting down in a panic, and their actions are proving inadequate anyway, it seems that we’re not being 100% rational, but in the opposite direction of what you indicate.

                    4. You’re just doubling down on “number bad = inadequate! You disagree! You irrational!”

                      You can keep going if you want. I won’t stop you.

                    5. Are we debating whether sickness and death are actually bad things? I’m not sure what we’re talking about.

                      I’ve been rather amused by what’s become libertarian orthodoxy on this issue: a cold, heartless utilitarian calculation about how many dead humans are acceptable relative to economic growth gains (and for many that really serves as a proxy for “Trump’s poll numbers”).

                      That’s fine I guess, if a bit off-brand. I was supposed to be the evil utilitarian, and you were supposed to be the people with principles.

                      The problem is that the whole scenario is complicated by the fact that people don’t behave like sheep obeying either government commands or the promises of libertarians that it’s really OK for them to go out and risk death. Risk death for the economy and Trump’s poll numbers! It’s not collectivist if it’s about economic growth! Somehow!

                      People reacting naturally and rationally to the threat of a pandemic is the principal cause of the economic contraction. Maybe you should try luring them out with candy.

                      Second complication: Trump’s poll numbers keep going further down into the shitter no matter how much he lies and reacts like the worst leader imaginable. Some of us did warn you. We were tipped off by the fact that he’s a fat orange clown who is less educated than your average carnie.

                    6. “I’ve been rather amused by what’s become libertarian orthodoxy on this issue: a cold, heartless utilitarian calculation”

                      You seem to be implying that you, on the other hand, are compassionate.

                    7. BTW, we have stepped back from the claim that anyone who disagrees with shutdowns must be a conspiracy theorist, right?

                    8. Not as compassionate as the people asking others to risk death against their will for the sake of economic growth, surely.

                      I’m under no illusion that this isn’t a sticky wicket. I would suggest next time we keep and maintain plans to deal with such scenarios instead of throwing them in the garbage bin because it has Obama’s name on it.

                    9. Sounds like you’ve made progress.

  11. All models are wrong, some are useful.

    And some are useful more for propaganda and furthering political agenda than for objective analysis and scientific investigation.

  12. >>It’s dangerous to rely too much on models

    not for the people who rely on the models.

  13. Never ever trust politicians and bureaucrats to keep you safe. No exceptions.

    Proof? History is the proof.

  14. I can’t help but notice that there are a bunch of scientific claims in this article.

    1. Which is why you are routinely the object of derision; you have no idea what a “scientific claim” is.
      There are very few (if any) “scientific claims”, other than the ones Stossel criticizes. There are many cited facts.

      1. “Climate change is real but it’s not happening nearly as fast as models predicted.”

        I suppose you object to part of this sentence too.

        1. That is a statement of fact, not a “scientific claim”; you lose again loser.

          1. It wants to be a statement of fact, which is what I meant by scientific claim. Now run along, don’t you have some fingerpaints to make out of your own shit?

            1. “It wants to be a statement of fact, which is what I meant by scientific claim.”

              You wanted it to be yellow, and so you called it purple?
              Ever consider growing up? It does mean you have to take some responsibility, so it’ll be tough for such an infantile ego…

  15. Whenever I see a headline that starts with ‘Experts say…” I immediately start to look at the credentials. One guy was billed as ‘an expert in disinformation’ whatever that means. Others are academics who ‘specialize’ in racial or gender studies, which makes them suspect in the first place.
    Bias in the media seems to have gotten worse since 2016 and ‘experts’ lead the way.

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  17. This is not a direct refutation of Stossel’s column but two things do need to be pointed out:
    — Perhaps (and I believe it sometimes is) it is the dire warnings themselves that lead to the actions which lessen the severity of the issues Stossel raises.
    –Experts are sometimes wrong but they are also sometimes right. I suppose I’d rather get the worst case scenario and go from there. That said, the media should put out the word from several groups of experts.

  18. Adding to my last post, I have read differently about the Maldives. And there ARE islands that have disappeared due to rising seas recently.
    Even if the Maldives have not yet been harmed, it is disingenuous to selectively point to examples of experts being incorrect when there’s evidence of examples showing they have been correct.

    1. Also problematic is the implied and very Stosselian claim that if scientists are ever wrong about something, that makes them probaly always wrong about everything. Stossel doesn’t understand how science works, and I have suspicions about whether he understands how plungers work.

      1. “Also problematic is the implied and very Stosselian claim that if scientists are ever wrong about something, that makes them probaly always wrong about everything.”

        Show me where Stossel claims that scientists are “probably wrong about everything”, you completely open minded and fair thinker/speaker, you.

        1. It’s implicit in the whole phony complaint about models. Don’t pretend like it’s not. If a climate change model gets a prediction wrong, that somehow calls into question the very fact of climate change. As if scientists aren’t aware that modeling is imperfect.

          Of course the cherry on top is when the models prove to be either correct or too optimistic, and people still believe what they want to about them anyway (see Hockey Stick).

          1. Well put…

          2. If you want to talk loose about implications, ok, we can do that.

            You’re an attention-seeking troll who enjoys telling people that you’re smart and they’re stupid, which completely undermines the sense of superiority you claim for the compassion of your political beliefs in the first place.

            I mean, it’s implicit in your phony whining. Don’t pretend like it’s not.

            1. Do I claim to be compassionate? I thought my political beliefs were rather coldly rational (though rational and empirical aren’t the same thing, and that distinction causes much of the confusion between our philosophies). But mainly I accept as a premise that the whole point of us flapping our jaws is to find the best way to serve the needs of the most people. If that’s compassion, then what are you offering as an alternative? A stick in the eye?

              I’m a typical liberal. I care about people in the abstract. Otherwise people can fuck off.

              1. It’s implied. Don’t pretend like it’s not.

                1. The stick in the eye? Didn’t need to tell me.

                2. Your claim of superior compassion silly.

                  You’re doing it up thread.

                  1. Is it compassion to care about whether humans live or die? Again, I thought that was assumed, but I could be wrong.

                  2. You’re reductive straw men go nowhere.

                    1. I just don’t know where you’re going with this. I think it’s irrelevant which of us is more compassionate. You can’t count on compassion alone in policy makers, and at any rate it’s doubly irrelevant since we’re talking about a policy of throwing citizens into a meat grinder for the sake of economic growth, on the assumption that they’ll willingly let us.

                    2. “throwing citizens into a meat grinder for the sake of economic growth”

                      The implications you have for other people are truly inpsiring.

                3. “It’s implied. Don’t pretend like it’s not.”

                  So he *didn’t* say it.
                  It would make things easier it you just posted “I lied”.

            2. Whoa, your attack and defensiveness is certainly telling. He made some pretty basic points. Funny they stuck out as particularly intelligent to you.

              1. Whatever you say, new guy.

              2. Concern troll is concerned.

          3. “It’s implicit in the whole phony complaint about models…”

            So he *didn’t* say it.
            It would make things easier it you just posted “I lied”.

      2. I think we all have to remember that those in the media who offer opinions have a brand, and they need to stick to it — conservative, liberal, whatever. They can never stray. AND, they have to come up with something to speak or write about even if they have nothing good. That’s why they ALL say so much stupid s**t. These people should not be taken seriously, for the most part.

        1. I think we all have to remember that those in the media who offer opinions have a brand, and they need to stick to it — conservative, liberal, whatever. They can never stray.

          ^What you say when you’re *completely* oblivious to Stossel’s “brand”.^

  19. It’s hard to take this article seriously with all the cherry picking going on. Especially when it goes off the rails toward the end.

  20. Now that Abe Vigoda really is dead, someone should should start a paulkrugmaniswrong website. It can feature a timer counting the hours since he was last correct about something, and also have a list of some of his whoppers like the one in this article.

  21. When it comes to believing experts vs. believing conspiracy theorists and trolls, I’ll stick with people who have some peer-reviewed publications on their resumes. Statistically, outcomes are better that way. For instance, I wouldn’t drink or inject bleach on Trump’s recommendation.

    1. For instance, I wouldn’t drink or inject bleach on Trump’s recommendation.

      Your Mom’s decision about perinatal thalidomide speaks volumes.

  22. Do something!!! politicians will usually opt to do something. The current absurdity is “contact tracing”. Completely useless in most States. Most States are pushing ahead.

  23. I usually like Stossel, but he is out of his area of expertise, uses bad logic, and keeps going with it. Just because something is imperfect doesn’t make it useless. Sure the models can predict unwarranted doom and gloom, and as and he says, the media tends to promote the most extreme versions. And all models predicting the future are guesswork. So, should I conclude that I never use math to model anything?

    The world as a whole panicked and is still panicking, overreached in its shutting down of businesses, and has not done it’s best during the COVID-19 crisis. The USA’s economy is in freefall, and 2021 will be worse than 2008. The USA, due to a variety of factors, failed to make its lockdown work. But other nations did make it work. They followed their own imperfect models, and are in a better place now. Look at Canada, Japan, South Korea, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and other 1st world nations that are banning travel from the USA if you want to see how this was supposed to work. Don’t blame math, which Stossel is in effect doing, because Bubba thinks this Covid thing is a hoax, doesn’t wear a mask, and keeps going out to bars and parties. Likewise in regards to the apparently controversial topic of Geology, a century is a blink of the eye, and we have no idea how high the seas will have risen at the end of this century, though the smart money is on over a yard. I believe in Geology. I live in SoCal, and they have been warning us about the Big One since I was a kid. I do believe that the big one is imminent, though it hasn’t happened yet. But I brace my bookshelves to the walls, just in case.

    Although mathematical modeling works imperfectly, it is better than nothing. Global warming models are also useful, though they may disagree wildly about how the effects will vary with time, like sea level rise. Science is hard and it is messy when it forecasts the future. But politicians and journalists are worse. Always consider the source. If I am looking for a good global climate change model, I like Cal Tech Or MIT or Stanford or other such experts more than I like Stossel. It is easy to critique the accuracy of a future prediction after the fact. And scientists use predictions to make their models better for the next iteration, unlike pundits who state after the fact that they always knew better.

    1. Thank you for posting this.

      I’ll add that Stossel didn’t explicitly provide an alternative to trusting the experts. For example, we know that weather forecasting is very flawed, but is there a better way? Tea leaves? Tarot cards? Same applies here.

      The title of this article is reasonable but the content leaves a lot to be desired.

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  26. Mr. Stossel has made the same cognitive bias error he is accusing others of. While he decries “experts”, he appears to fail to grasp what the true experts in virtually any field, know. There is a lot of unknown and incomplete data. The real experts know this. But it is complex, lengthy and often boring to others, to try to explain the nuances and details. Media (including Mr. Stossel) don’t have time for that. He seems to be quoting the “experts” who, driven by the same media hair-on-fire that seems to pervade our every waking moment these days, are so ego gratified to be placed in a momentary spotlight, that they tend to make outlandish and sweeping statements, sort of what Stossel is doing here.

    Stop cherry-picking your “expert” statements in biased support of your preconceived point and you’ll do a much more credible job.

    Oh. That title of your essay is a bit nonsensical as well. Faith and expertise, especially science, are in general, opposites.

    1. Funny, isn’t it, that the article doesn’t mention the prediction by White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett that COVID deaths would drop to zero by May 15 based on fitting a cubic trendline to the existing data.

  27. With what is it more likely banks build up those excessive exposures that could be dangerous for our bank systems, with what’s rated AAA or with what’s rated below BB-?
    “Expert” regulators set bank capital requirements of 1.6% AAA rated and 12% for below BB- rated.

  28. ““There is no such thing as expertise on the future.”
    This is a statement that is so profoundly ignorant, it is depressing that it appears on a journal “Reason”

    Weather forecasting is based on climate science, now more accurate than ever. Prognoses of disease is getting ever more accurate based on understanding the causation.

    And John, it is astronomical science that allows us to predict eclipses to the second, centuries in advance

    And on and on and on. The tragedy is that you’re disdain for true science is that of the vast majority of our citizens. And you and they get to elect our political leaders.

  29. Every other country that followed the advice of their experts gained control over the virus.

    Only in the USA where conservatives and libertarians celebrate gun thumping because experts asked them to stay home is the virus thriving.

    Get fucked, Stossel.

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