Over the last half dozen years the rightist-populist (shorthand: Trumpist) war on expertise has created a highly polarized conversation about the role of expertise in democratic public life. But the debate about booster shots shows how those of us who are on Team Expertise have perhaps slightly overshot in this contentious public conversation. Or perhaps ‘overshot’ isn’t the right word. It shows how once we set aside conversations with idiots and bullshit artists there are real nuances, as there always has been, in the balance between expertise and democratic self-governance.
Let’s start by making a few points clear. Especially in the hard sciences we really should defer to people with professional expertise. Not sign off all decision-making, mind you, but really show great deference to the organized and systematic accumulation of knowledge which is a centerpiece – perhaps the centerpiece – of our civilization. The question is often on what questions specifically is the expertise relevant?
Here’s where you get to the booster question.