Posner on pundits

Quote of the day, from Judge Richard Posner: “Ordinary people can say stupid things. Brilliant people do it brilliantly.”

(…) Foner and Laqueur are not representative—except in their willingness to make fools of themselves in public by writing precipitately about matters outside their area of professional specialization. That willingness has become widespread among academics.

(…) Academics are smart and fast, and, in nonscientific fields such as law and history, they can be glib. They are able to supply plausible commentary at short notice on pretty much any subject that engages the interest of the public. The greater that interest, the greater the outpouring of instant commentary. But when academics speak off the cuff, especially about matters outside their areas of expertise, quality tends to go to hell. And there is no accountability for their pratfalls. A tenured professor who makes a fool of himself in the media can always retreat to the security of the academy.

Also related, Robin Hanson: Social scientists know lots (“but most public talk by social experts reflects little social science.”)

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