Decent democrats, on the other hand, give experts their place while accepting that said experts usually disagree with each other and someone has to then try to make public policy decisions based in part on their advice. That’s a bit messy, but of course so is democracy.
In a democracy, experts have their place; their own special power. This power derives from the very fact of their defined field of expertise. By the same token, when they’re not that in that special place then their non-expert opinions carry exactly the same weight, have exactly the same moral value, as those of the rest of us.
We should naturally be deeply suspicious of experts who try to use their ‘expert’ status to give their words added power by veiling where they are moving outside their area of expertise. This is an obvious misuse of their status; it’s very cheeky at best. Experts, it turns out, sometimes even do this for money or to reflect their own perceived status. Gasp!
Tomorrow, it seems from advance press-releases (The Times, paywall) he has permitted to be put out, no less than a Nobel Prize winning economist will tell us that Scottish independence is a thoroughly bad idea. Unlike, say, Nobel prize winning economist Joe Stiglitz, though, it seems that Angus Deaton isn’t basing his utterances from on high about independence on any expert knowledge. No, here is a choice thought from said economist:
“I am a Scot, even if I haven’t lived there for a long time, and I do understand that Scottish people feel they’re a separate nation and culture. But that doesn’t mean it should be independent from the UK”.
Actually, prof, this is precisely the primary basis of nationhood. You haven’t really given this much thought, have you?
So before giving us the benefit of his considered perspective based upon 53 years of residence outside Scotland, has US-citizen Sir Angus considered the jealously-guarded roles of nationhood and self-determination in the place which has been his home for the last 33 years – i.e. The United States of America? And in his new foray into the UK’s constitution and future, has he reflected upon the complete dominance contemporary English conservatism, a considerably further right-wing and populist manifestation of the genre compared to when he left Scotland for England (when Sir Alec Douglas Home was prime minister), has over Scotland in today’s ‘United’ Kingdom? Has he given any thought at all to dignity, self-determination, culture, sociology, or even what Scots might think best for themselves? Has he conducted, say, any research on the matter? Has he read up on extant research to inform his opinion?
No, of course he hasn’t done any of these things.
Instead, he’s allowed his publicists to encourage the media to say such things as: “Deaton argues that the country’s (Scotland’s) isolation would only increase if it split from the UK”. And: “independence would place it (Scotland) in an even more uncertain place in relation to its EU membership”.
Really? Is that so, prof? As a nobel prize winning academic, what do you base that upon? Seriously, show us your working! Oh, you have none? Why, that’ll be because you are no more an expert on European politics than you are on Asian botany. Oh, and by the way, the issue is manifestly not certainty – we’re entirely certain that if we stay with the UK we’ll be out of the EU, of course. The issue is whether Scots should allow a group of exclusively English brexiteers take Scotland out of the EU on the basis of what they think best for their constituents in right-wing, populist England.
The thing is, prof, that if there is a single motif emblazoned across the democratic world at the moment then it’s that of people wanting some kind of control over their own destiny. In many places, like the United States and England, that’s manifesting itself as right-wing populism. But not in Scotland, prof. Not at all in Scotland. All Scots ask is that they get to decide for themselves between controlling their own social democratic destiny and being told that their lot is to follow right-wing English Brexiteers out of the EU, something which actual experts on the subject have virtually unanimously said will harm Scotland beyond repair.
Sir (I’ll have that, too, along with the money) Angus, if you want to learn a little more about modern Scotland or the politics of the EU, go ask an on-duty expert. Meanwhile, enjoy your dinner, your media coverage and your new earning power. That, along with the attendant academic demerit, comes with the territory of dining and speaking out injudiciously on your nobel prize.