How Could The Expert Class Get It So Wrong?

There is nothing like an approaching disaster to save experts from irrelevancy. At the World Economic Forum in Davos in January, 750 economists nominated climate change as the top threat to civilisation this year. Everything else appeared to be going pretty much to plan. Britain would remain in Europe and Hillary Clinton would win the US presidential election.

“The major political legacy of the billionaire Donald Trump could be to drive the Republican Party so far to the right that it becomes unelectable for a generation,” David Smith wrote at Economy Watch.

Cas Mudde, an assistant professor described as an “authority on right-wing politics”, predicted Trump would “implode and disappear leaving virtually no institutional trace”.

In New Zealand the experts were anticipating a victory for the “Jackzit” — the removal of the Union Jack from their national flag — in a vote to decide its design. Most MPs were in favour of removing the British ensign, the New Zealand Herald reported. Australian commentator Peter FitzSimons egged them on: “We need you to lead the way on this one.”

A vote to leave the EU seemed about as likely as Leicester City winning the Premier League. “It is between Arsenal and Manchester City,” said soccer coach Harry Redknapp. “Leicester will probably start to fall away and I’ve put them down to finish sixth.”

In February the editorial writers at The Age reassured their readers that Americans would see sense. “Mr Trump is not fit to lead the vibrant democracy that is the United States, a beacon of liberty and the rule of law, a haven for migrants, and a vital engine of global economic growth.”

March, however, brought the first signs of Trump-induced panic. “Impeach Trump!” thundered New York’s Daily News. “It’s not too early to start.”

At a Pittsburgh energy convention, South Australian Premier Jay Weatherill announced a $250,000 prize for the best scheme to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon-neutral city. His vision of the sunlit uplands failed to lift the enveloping gloom.

Alexander Burns wrote in The New York Times he feared Trump “might become a kind of zombie candidate, damaged beyond the point of repair, but too late for any of his rivals to stop him”.

In May the city of Leicester came to a standstill as soccer fans celebrated their team’s premiership. Scott Lemieux assured readers of New Republic it should not be seen as an omen. A Trump win “would be a big upset — maybe not Leicester City winning the Premier League big, but big”.

Meanwhile, John Harrison at the Brisbane Times weighed the prospects of another unlikely candidate. “Pauline Hanson is yesterday’s heroine,” he wrote. “Glenn Lazarus can look forward to another term in the Senate.”

In Britain, the storm fronts were merging to form a supercell of anxiety. Brexit would be so “potentially disastrous for the global fight against climate change”, philosophy professor Benito Muller wrote in the Financial Times.

Bank of England governor Mark Carney predicted a Brexit vote could plunge Britain into recession. International Monetary Fund chief Christine Lagarde forecast post-Brexit panic: “We have done our homework and we haven’t found anything positive to say about a Brexit vote.”

Jessica Irvine tried to calm Sydney Morning Herald readers with the assurance that Brexit was “unlikely to happen”.

In June the residents of Leicester were celebrating again, along with most of the country, as Britons voted to leave the EU.

Liam Young in The Independent could hardly believe their stupidity. “The Treasury, the Bank of England, the International Monetary Fund, the World Trade Organisation and numerous leading economists would all need to be proved wrong on the economic question if we are to avoid financial ruin.”

In July, Hanson was elected to the Senate along with three of her One Nation chums. Lazarus received less than 1.5 per cent of the vote.

Clinton, the cognoscenti assured us, was still on track. “It should be glaringly obvious,” Hank Berrien wrote in The Daily Wire, “that running Trump might well be the one way to ensure Clinton a victory in November”.

At their convention the same month, Republicans defied conventional wisdom to make Trump their presidential nominee. Trump failed to pivot as expected.

“Bizarrely, Trump has begun pivoting ideologically — towards the right,” black Muslim sociologist Musa al-Gharbi wrote in The Huffington Post.

“This kind of pivot is not only totally unnecessary, but is obviously counter-productive for a general election bid.”

In September, Damon Linker assured readers of The Week that “the conventional wisdom has calcified: Donald Trump is going to lose to Hillary Clinton … But the conventional wisdom is wrong. Trump isn’t merely going to lose. He’s going to lose in the biggest popular vote landslide in modern presidential history.”

Meanwhile, Weatherill briefly realised his ambition to make Adelaide the world’s first carbon-neutral city when a storm shut down the windmills and plunged the city into darkness.

In October, GQ editor Jim Nelson brought us good news about Trump. “He will lose this election badly, by which I mean poorly. Exceedingly poorly.”

He would lose “completely and definitively”, Jim Warren wrote in the Toronto Sun. “Trump will go down in history as the worst Republican presidential nominee ever.”

Kim Beazley called the result on Sky News. “ She is presidential, he is a narcissistic buffoon,” the former ALP leader said. “She’ll not win in a landslide in the primary vote, but she could well win in a landslide in the electoral college.”

The year ended tortuously for the expert class. Trump in, Britain out. In the UK shares are up, unemployment is down and the economy grew faster in the second half of the year than it did in the first. In Wellington the flag flies unaltered atop the Beehive. Redknapp has been appointed manager of Jordan’s soccer team, which lost 5-1 to Australia.

As the expert class pack their cases for Davos, there is no sign yet of the coming climate catastrophe. Never mind, there’s always next year.

Originally posted as :  Since Davos, only the climate remains unchanged.

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