How we killed expertise (and why we need it back)

The cure for these transgressions, however, is not to replace expertise with ignorance: It is to replace it with better expertise. If complaints about experts were meant to restore a balance between experts and laypeople, experts would be the first to support it. But this requires voters to be at least modestly informed, not simply convinced they are automatically right. And as it stands now, attacks on expertise often amount to a demand from ordinary citizens—sometimes encouraged by politicians and hucksters—that their views, no matter how contradictory or hazardous, be considered equal to those of the most experienced expert.

No country, and especially not a republic based on delegated powers, can maintain the values and practices that sustain democracy when voters remain ignorant about their own system of government. When most Americans think a quarter of the U.S. federal budget is devoted to foreign aid, when more than 70 percent of them cannot name all three branches of government—and nearly a third can’t name even one—the basic structures of American democracy cannot survive.