The Pacific Legal Foundation’ s new documentary, “Trust Us,” reveals some of the dangers of putting the country, the economy, and especially the individual’s wellbeing into the hands of designated experts.
The film goes through the history of Taylorism (named after Frederick Winslow Taylor who brought forth the idea of scientific management) and its cruel and damaging outcomes. Examples of the inability of experts to know everything abound, from the communist experiment (which the documentary points to as the ultimate Taylorist organization), which led to crippled economies and starving people, to the Pruitt-Igoe housing project, and even the Great Depression in the U.S.
As Lawrence W. Reed’s “Great Myths of the Great Depression” also observes, government intervention did not rescue the U.S. from the Great Depression, it actually prolonged it, keeping the market from rebounding by itself. “Trust us” recounts how food surplus was destroyed by the U.S. government in an attempt to control the economy, while people starved in their own homes, right here in the great U.S.
The Pruitt- Igoe housing project in Missouri had to eventually be destroyed because of the abject failure it turned out to be and the negative effects it had on the community. According to the documentary, these times also offered a glimpse into government’s “care” for its people when it required mothers to be single in order to get government benefits.
An interesting observation the documentary makes is that there are those who are book educated and those who work practically, that is theorists and practitioners. So, who is seen as the expert in our society? Well, it is always, it seems, the book educated who, so many times in history, have proven how little they know of reality. The country of the philosopher king, soon becomes no country at all if it follows his musings without question.
It is easy for theoreticians to engage in what Thomas Sowell called stage one thinking, where the immediate and long -term effects of an action are not clear to them. For instance, raising the minimum wage forces companies looking out for their bottom line to either lay off workers or cut their hours, in which case the employee is the losing party. And the effects of inflation after such a rise in salaries are not to be ignored either.
Friedrich Hayek also noted in The Road to Serfdom that the desire to plan society and individual lives in general is not only doomed to fail but is quite dangerous for both freedom and safety.
This was noted by Milton Friedman too. He insisted that the market was better equipped to regulate itself than any expert paid and trained to do so, as free markets are finely tuned mechanisms which operate on exchange of information and materials, the caliber of which could never be truly known by any one person or committee. This was very clearly evidenced in the economy of socialist countries.
The obsession with experts and their trustworthiness, the worship culture, and the hysterical masses gathered around them during the Covid-19 pandemic were only proof of such dangers. Truly, as the documentary points out, one must try to limit such excesses in the future, and make sure that the public can choose the experts it wants to listen to, not have some promoted and others silenced. Let’s not forget all of the “experts” who put together Nazi race and wellness experiments and policies.
Just as we saw Dr. Anthony Fauci state that an attack on him is an attack on science, inflated egos and the cult of personality are quick to take hold when the state backs certain experts to the detriment of others.
The documentary “Trust us” brings to light some of the reasons why it is important to stay away from central planning and the “experts know best” attitude. It attempts to display the foresight and understanding that people like physicist Richard Feynman (whom the movie quotes) had when stating: “science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts,” and that the scientific method is all about contestation, experimentation, and debate, not compliance.