The fall from grace of would-be morality pundit Bill Bennett, acting oh-so-predictably in simultaneously denying that he did anything wrong, but promising never to do it again, has more than entertainment value. It may finally put a big stake in the heart of the so-called “tyranny of the experts.”
It does boggle the mind to count up the number of speeches, at 50 grand per, that he must have given on “virtue.” After all, every substantive moral issue has been elucidated long ago, and the results are available to interested parties in such widely promulgated works as the Old and New Testaments, not to mention scores of other classic texts. Apparently, there is a nearly insatiable demand for high-priced after-dinner speakers for the thousands of meetings and conventions that occur every year.
As one who has been on both sides of the podium, I can assure you that the vast majority of the speeches are boring and pointless. To truly engage your audience not only requires a tremendous amount of preparation, it is actually discouraged by the conference organizers, who really just want an attraction to pass the time, and give some value-added to the proceedings. Keep them awake, but only barely.
One wonders how many conversions, religious or otherwise, occurred as a result of his speeches. The more likely outcome would be comparable to the unrepentant fat person, who eases his conscience by purchasing a library full of diet books, that he never reads. But, if they were willing to pay, Bennett was willing to take the money—just like his casino buddies, who made millions off him.
Rather than dwell on the pathetic antics of this overstuffed humbug, we would do better to ask ourselves how our nation, founded by self-reliant pioneers, morphed into a motley collection of self-doubting nincompoops, lining up to hear the latest pronouncements from every media touted “expert.” Never mind that the experts are so often wrong, especially about the big stuff…
“There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.”
President of Digital Equipment Corporation, 1977
“You ain’t goin’ nowhere, son. You ought to go back to drivin’ a truck.”
Jim Denny, Manager of “Grand Ole Opry”, to Elvis Presley, 1954
“I do not consider Hitler to be as bad as he is depicted. He is showing an ability that is amazing and he seems to be gaining his victories without much bloodshed.”
Mohandas K. Gandhi, 1940
“Forget it, Louis, no Civil War picture ever made a nickel.”
Irving Thalberg’s warning to Louis B. Mayer regarding Gone With the Wind
“If excessive smoking actually plays a role in the production of lung cancer, it seems to be a minor one.”
Dr. W. C. Heuper, National Cancer Institute, 1954
“Ruth made a great mistake when he gave up pitching. Working once a week, he might have lasted a long time and become a great star.”
Tris Speaker, Manager of the Cleveland Indians, 1921
Well, you get the idea.
Perhaps, one of most egregious examples of expert influence has been in the field of child-rearing. Since the early 20th century, the pendulum has shifted wildly between strict and permissive, parent-centered and child-centered, and even Lockean versus Rousseauean, although it is somewhat obscure as to what the last divide actually means. Not surprisingly, the dominant theory of a particular era tends to be strongly influenced by the times.
During World War II, when women began working outside the home in large numbers, there was plenty of concern about lack of motherly attention, even though during the 1920’s the experts talked about too much cloying motherly love. After the war, of course, most women stayed home. That was to change again by the 1970’s, when women entered—and stayed—in the work force, and wouldn’t you know it, the experts again changed their tune. Who needs mothers when the kids can be raised by the “village” of day care?
And let’s not forget the late uber-fraud Dr. Benjamin Spock, whose book changed with the times so often, it should have been embarrassing, except that once you had the book in your library, you generally didn’t buy the new edition. Thus, brand new parents would never have compared their book to earlier editions. But then, what can you say about a pro-abortion baby doctor, anyway?
You could comment on the fate of so many of the babies who survive. A significant number, especially if they are boys, are being diagnosed with any one of a variety of imaginary conditions such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), that require costly professional intervention and plenty of drugs. ADHD is imaginary since, by definition, a disease requires the diagnosis of a chemical or physical abnormality.
Who cares that this criteria need no longer be met? Sadly, we have now entered the era where a disease is whatever the experts say it is, science be damned.
You’d think that after spending years in undergrad, med school, and residency, the shrinks would have enough confidence to think for themselves, but they, too, are bullied by the experts.
Here’s my expert advice: Think for yourself!