Cult of the Expert

Our society loves experts.

We love investing experts, real estate gurus, all-knowing professors, benevolent leaders and kung-fu masters. We like to think there are people out there, such as the Professor on Gilligan’s island, who can take our problem and devise a masterful solution. Almost every story in our culture glorifies this concept.

Jack Baur on 24 is pretty well super-human. Why he isn’t running the world from a mountain lair is beyond me. Maybe because everyone else on the show is super-human too. Each crew member on each of the starship enterprises routinely performs miracles. It seems to be part of the recruiting requirements at starfleet academy. All the way back to Odysseus we like to read / hear about people who are pretty darn remarkable.

In reality, there isn’t a single soldier in the world who is anywhere near Jack’s level. No engineer is anywhere near as good as Scotty or La Forge and most sailors would have a hard time dealing with a single cyclops (let along a bunch of them).

Certain professions tap into this desire to believe in heroes. Lawyers, doctors and real estate agents continually try to convince society that they have abilities and knowledge that are unattainable (and incomprehensible) to us and we need to just turn our lives (and our money) over to them.

Robert Heinlein wrote:

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

As Heinlein encourages us, we can defend ourselves in a court of law, help someone who is sick or sell a property ourselves. Of course there would be extreme situations where it would be worth seeking help (performing brain surgery on your wife might not be the best idea, although it might give you a chance to defend yourself in court), but anyone with a brain in their head can (and should) handle routine matters in these areas on their own.

Clearly the reason why these professions want to scare us into putting them up on a pedestal is to ensure their own economic well being. Its bloody hard to create a monopoly on a profession, but a few of them have managed it. As I, and others, have wrote before, no one will care more about your well-being than you, so you owe it to yourself to put the best person on the job (and usually that’ll be you).

Some time ago I pulled some of my thoughts together about real estate agents. An agent showed up and offered to “explain how a buyers agreement benefits the buyer”. It is insulting that someone would have the gall to pretend that an legal agreement that binds us to them as an exclusive supplier benefits *US*. Any agent who would try to feed you that bull clearly thinks you’re an idiot (and why do business with someone who has such a low perception of you?).

If you’ve read this far, you’re clearly in the group of people with brains in their head. If you’re already doing things for yourself, I commend you on your courage and intelligence. If you’re not, I encourage you to learn and try more. You have the capability to do it. I believe in you!

3 replies on “Cult of the Expert”

Very interesting post. I think RE agents are in first place on my BS list.

At least doctors and lawyers do have some schooling to back up their claims.

One thing I like about 24 is how CTU members routinely get shot, end up in intensive care, pull back from the brink of death and are back on the job 90 minutes later. I love that show.


“Clearly the reason why these professions want to scare us into putting them up on a pedestal is to ensure their own economic well being.”

I agree with you 100% here. I especially agree when it comes to the realm of academia. Now that’s a self propagating system set up for their own economic well being.

“If you?ve read this far, you?re clearly in the group of people with brains in their head.”

Awww…thanks! I didn’t think you would like me very much after my comments on your other post. Seriously thoguht besides that one issue I think you have allot of good information and thoughts on your site.

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