What have the “experts” given us so far?
There has been much ado made about Donald Trump’s pick of Dr. Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon by trade, to head up the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), over the fear that (The Horror!™) Carson doesn’t carry the right resumé and expertise for the job. So what?
The wailing and gnashing of teeth from Trump’s political opponents about picks like Andrew Puzder (Labor) and Scott Pruitt (EPA) run along the lines of “Oh no! This person doesn’t adhere to our political orthodoxy on climate change and the minimum wage!”
The complaints about Dr. Carson, however, are something else entirely, with many mewling that he is an extraordinarily unfit candidate to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Well, Ben Carson may not be a public housing wonk, and he may have even admitted himself that he has no prior government experience leading up to the announcement. But again … so what?
“Dr. Carson’s greatest strength is not his sheer intelligence (which is very formidable), his standing as a world-class pediatric neurosurgeon (a field in which his pioneering efforts are legendary), his deep popularity with home schoolers, or his political appeal (at one point he was tied with Donald Trump as the frontrunner),” writes Gingrich.
“What makes Dr. Carson uniquely important is his moral authority as someone who has risen from poverty to enormous success and carried his mother’s basic conservatism and belief in religion and morality with him his entire life,” Gingrich states. “He has lived his mother’s dream that hard work, a willingness to learn, and honesty can carry you to great heights.”
In short, what Carson lacks in federal agency experience, he makes up for with something far more valuable — the common sense that comes with a life well lived, and the heart and worldview that comes from having actually lived as those he intends to serve. If an unconstitutional department that shouldn’t exist in the first place is going to keep on existing, common sense, passion, and an informed worldview will do it a lot of good.
But still, a neurosurgeon with no professional experience working with the finer points of inner-city housing regulations, et al., doesn’t seem to be the kind of guy the detractors see fit to be working in the top office in one of Washington, D.C.’s ugliest buildings.
Such are the problems with the so-called age of “enlightened administration,” championed by President Franklin Roosevelt in his speech to the Commonwealth Club in 1932.
So now those who would seek to fill our now-behemoth administrative state now complain that the president-elect’s Cabinet choices are not the right kind of individuals (i.e. “enlightened”).
While much has been said of late about whether Dr. Ben Carson actually lived in government housing or not, the debate misses the point. Have we not had enough of technocrats running the federal government? For too long Americans have looked to bureaucrats in Washington to administer the finer points of their daily lives.
I’ve previously written about philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s explanation of how our current obsession with managerial expertise is one that is modernistic and misguided:
Our current understanding of expertise, MacIntyre explains, is a product of the modern era. The Scottish philosopher goes on to explain that what began as the Enlightenment’s desire for empiricism has become a system in which society today is overseen by “expert” bureaucrats and technocrats who pretend to know the things that make them proper arbiters of the social order.
“But,” Macintyre writes, “the notion of social control embodied in the notion of expertise is indeed a masquerade. Our social order is in a very literal sense out of our, and indeed anyone’s, control. No one is or could be in charge.”
What have the experts provided us so far? Obamacare? Backbreaking taxes with dubious results (at best)? Colossal debt and a black hole of entitlement programs? Even with the “enlightened” and anointed running things, the governing class has not gotten much better.
One would only hope that this moment would provide the proponents of FDR’s vision with a moment of self-reflection. Perhaps removing power and creating a coercive behemoth in the nation’s capitol to solve local problems from which it is so far removed isn’t a good thing.
The appointment of people to administrative positions you don’t see “fit” to run the government is a natural consequence of living in a regime with regular, free elections. Unfortunately, for those obsessed with the myths of progressivism, a highly centralized state is the only means by which political nirvana can be achieved.
Perhaps it’s finally high time to stop worrying so much about appointed “experts” running things. Conservatives, in the age of Trump, must look at the current map and begrudgingly make peace with the fact that these unconstitutional and imprudent governmental bodies are to persist (just as leftists must begrudgingly accept the ramifications of creating a big, coercive machine that cannot be under their control in perpetuity).
I am reminded of a famous quote from Alexander Hamilton in 1788 at the New York state convention to ratify the federal Constitution: “Here sir, the people govern.” We all apparently need also be reminded that he said “people” — not technocrats.