What are Think Tanks For? Policy Research in the Age of Anti-Expertise
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The fall of the expert
In early June 2016, the liberal thinking establishment was shocked to hear British Conservative Brexiteer Michael Gove claim on Sky TV that “people in this country have had enough of experts from organizations with acronyms, saying they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong.” (1) Today, that statement seems even bland. The months that followed, from Brexit to Trump, saw the triumph of ‘post-truth.’ Expert advice and the mediation of democratic institutions are increasingly bypassed. If lies can flourish, who needs the experts?
The paradox is that the attack on expertise happens at a time when it is most needed. Globalization and technological change are making the world more interconnected and complex, and the slimming of the public sector have made governments less equipped to deal with such complexity. This has contributed to depoliticizing of globalization and the rise of ‘There is No Alternative’ approaches.