Talk:Best of the public

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A third "Invisible Hand?"[edit]


I think you may be underestimating the importance of the concept you've articulated. It seems to be that best of the public, when applied to an academic endeavor, creates a third "Invisible Hand"--an "Invisible Hand of Insight," if you will, with the power to lead to deeper and more powerful insights than conventional, expert-dominated processes.

Indeed, it may well be that best of the public is, in fact, the driving mechanism behind all of the Invisible Hands. Certainly, Smith's Invisible Hand can only function in a free market, where the best of the public is free to produce goods and generate wealth. The Invisible Hand of Marriage only functions in a society where those who believe in the value of the family are free to marry and raise children to share those values--again, the best of the public coming to the fore.

Thus, best of the public would be a central force. When applied to economic matters, it would result in Smith's invisible hand; when applied to social matters, it would result in the Invisible Hand of Marriage, and when applied to intellectual, it would result in the Invisible Hand of Insight.

In fact, best of the public provides a powerful means of explaining exactly why big government liberalism is so harmful. Invariably, dependency on big government intervention interferes with the best of the public, and thus, with the ability of the Invisible Hands to act.

Really, a remarkable piece of insight. It succinctly and concisely identifies the engine behind conservatism. Well done, indeed!

--Benp 22:18, 15 December 2009 (EST)

That's brilliant, Ben. You (or the public!) could develop your marvelous insight further!--Andy Schlafly 22:38, 15 December 2009 (EST)

Well, thank you, Andy! I'm honored and flattered that you find it so. I'll certainly work on this (and I hope others will, too)...but perhaps tomorrow, when I'm not nodding off at the keyboard.  :) Have a pleasant evening! --Benp 22:46, 15 December 2009 (EST)

I think there may be Coase theorem implications as well. When property is owned individually, by the public, regardless of what property or who owns it, an economic system flourishes. However when property is owned collectively, even by well meaning institutions run by experts and people who think they know best for others, economic decline and catastrophe are inevitable. It is almost as if an invisible hand guiding the public works better than the all too visible hand of the experts. --PThomson 23:00, 15 December 2009 (EST)

I may work this into my final lecture for my Economics class, which I must complete tomorrow (Wednesday). Perhaps students -- and the best of the public here -- can develop it even further!--Andy Schlafly 23:25, 15 December 2009 (EST)

Boston Marathon[edit]

It's not quite true that "anyone can enter" the Boston Marathon--I cannot,as I have yet to meet their standard of completing a marathon with a time better than 3 hours 10 minutes (the minimum required for a male in my age group). AlexWD 00:54, 17 December 2009 (EST)

That's a new strict condition. Good point to raise it. I'll replace the Boston Marathon with the New York Marathon to avoid that issue.--Andy Schlafly 08:52, 17 December 2009 (EST)
It's interesting to note that the Boston Marathon has resulted in few world records--one men's and two women's, none more recent than a quarter of a century ago--and all three of those were controversial in some way. On the other hand, the Chicago Marathon, which lacks the restrictive entry requirements of the Boston Marathon--has had four, and the Berlin Marathon--which prides itself on the number of people who participate, and also doesn't appear to have an entrance requirement--has had 7, the most of any marathon. This would seem to be strong corroborative evidence that the best of the public principle is valid; otherwise, you'd expect the races that only allow "expert" runners to produce the most records. --Benp 19:32, 17 December 2009 (EST)
That's an intriguing insight, Ben--you should add it to the article, and I should consider setting my marathon goals "lower" and find a cheap flight to Berlin!! AlexWD 19:40, 17 December 2009 (EST)
The Chicago Marathon actually sets so many records because it is held in a very mild time of year, and Chicago is an incredibly flat city. The Fargo Marathon features a similar route without hills, and is used by many to qualify to the Boston Marathon.--Rcgallup 23:09, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Would somebody please add to our Marathon article the number and type of records set at each major venue? --Ed Poor Talk 13:48, 26 December 2009 (EST)

The Boston Marathon is only for runners who have completed at least one marathon, and they must meet the designated time standard that corresponds with their age group [1]

The US Open tennis championship runs a free qualifying tournament beforehand, [2] but top players don't have to qualify.

The US Open chess tournament has a $135 registration fee (waived for grandmasters).

So there is somewhat of a barrier to entry, but it seems intended just to weed out people who aren't serious about competing. It's not like academic peer review, which is often abused to censor new ideas that challenge the mainstream. In America, many sports and games are genuine arenas of competition where skill and ability can rise to the surface. (I must make an article about this.) --Ed Poor Talk 13:44, 26 December 2009 (EST)

I think that's a good distinction to make, Ed. If I really wanted to run in the Boston Marathon, I could go out and run around my block to train. Eventually, I'd be in good enough shape to make the grade, and could easily do so by running in a smaller marathon. I wouldn't have to go to "Marathon School," or establish my bonafides; there wouldn't be a panel of marathon runners sitting in judgment to determine whether or not my running technique was worthy of inclusion. --Benp 14:55, 26 December 2009 (EST)

Kasparov vs. the World[edit]

This is a fascinating article and I'm sure you're on to something here. I have another apparent "counterexample", the close consideration of which I hope can lead to new insights on this topic, and I certainly don't expect to refute it. In 1999 the chess champion Kasparov played a match in which his opponent's moves were decided by popular vote. More than 50,000 players participated, but Kasparov emerged victorious nonetheless. Do you have any reflections on this match, and can it help refine the notion of "best of the public"? --JimR 19:47, 17 December 2009 (EST)

That seems much more like an example of mob rule than of Best of the Public! If the opponent's moves were the best suggested moves rather than just the ones the mob voted for, I suspect Kasparov would have had a harder time. What we're doing here at CP isn't decided by popular vote of 50,000 random people; rather it is truly the best of the public. DanielPulido 19:55, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Daniel raises an excellent point. Simple majority vote doesn't ensure that the best of the public will prevail. If anything, it makes it very difficult. Suppose ten of those 50,000 players were capable of beating Kasparov. All of them saw clearly which moves would defeat him; all of them voted for those moves. Unfortunately, twenty thousand not-so-good players all voted for a different set of moves--resulting in a win for Kasparov. --Benp 20:03, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Benp hits it right on the nose. Kasparov's victory just shows he's better than the average chess player, since good and bad players voting on moves will be average. We already knew Kasparov was better than average. JacobB 20:14, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Super point by JimR, and even better responses. As noted in response, we don't decide by majority vote here. The winner of a gold medal at the Olympics is not chosen by popular vote either.
The better analogy is if Kasparov played a "best of the public" opponent consisting of a Conservapedia-like, rule-based process for welcoming, accepting, debating and then making each move. Timing would be an obstacle but in the real pursuit of knowledge there are no constraints of chess clocks. Kasparov would lose a contest against the best of the public. Indeed, if the best of the public could use computers, as our best of the public can, there would be no doubt that Kasparov would lose.
Thanks for the tantalizing point that illustrates how powerful the "best of the public" is.--Andy Schlafly 20:17, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Ah, you're right of course! But that there could be ten of those (non-expert) players capable of beating him seems extremely unlikely to me -- any such player could turn professional and make large sums of money, and so probably would for economic reasons. On the other hand I am sure that for each move, there were members of the public who found the ideal move, one which would give the best overall chance. Can this fit into the theory? --JimR 20:18, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Although I am not sure of the exact situation in this particular game, I have seen games played on other forums following this format. What tends to happen is one or two people (self titled "experts" usually) monopolize the conversation and shut out the rest of the people who want to contribute. Since the public views are largely ignored by a vocal minority who are more interested in self aggrandizement than success, the process results inevitably in failure.--PThomson 20:32, 17 December 2009 (EST)
As an interesting aside, this is perhaps much why Wikipedia is such a failure - a vocal minority want to argue and set aside the persuasive arguments of others primarily for their own sense of well being rather than helping the project.--PThomson 20:32, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Brilliant point. I suppose it is a thin line between the "best of the public" and the "worst of the public"! Wikipedia, with its lack of meaningful rules, approaches the "worst of the public." As with the US Constitution, the rules make all the difference in bringing out the best of the public.--Andy Schlafly 21:14, 17 December 2009 (EST)

A better analogy with the advancement of knowledge would be Kasparov playing 100 games simultaneously against the best of the public. Kasparov would lose nearly all of those games. Limiting the contests to just one game at a time artificially helps Kasparov in a way that is not realistic in the search for knowledge.--Andy Schlafly 21:20, 17 December 2009 (EST)

Actually, this is a common event in chess (called a "simul" for short), in which a grandmaster plays a large number of members of the public at once. Usually the master dominates the event, while losing a few games -- in one performance the great Jose Raul Capablanca played 103 games simultaneously, winning 102 of them and settling for a draw in the other. Kasparov has played these too and I don't think he ever lost nearly all. Now, perhaps this isn't the "best of the public" he's up against, but if he's playing against more specialized members of the public, aren't these just more experts? Understand that I appreciate this observation, and I'm just hoping to refine my understanding of it! --JimR 22:05, 17 December 2009 (EST)

What I don't think has happened yet, Jim, is the type of process Andy's describing: determining the next move not by majority vote, but by the sort of group deliberation, collaboration, and consideration that routinely takes place here on Conservapedia. As pointed out, time would be a factor in that, since such deliberation takes time. If we remove the time factor, though, it could very well be that the best of the public would be able to collaborate to determine superior moves. Certainly, it would be an intriguing experiment. --Benp 22:19, 17 December 2009 (EST)
It occurs to me that the most interesting experiment might be one that just cut Kasparov out entirely-- Have a chess match between the mob and the Best of the Public. Let one side's moves be determined by a majority vote and the other's by the Best of the Public. Can there be any doubt who would win? DanielPulido 22:25, 17 December 2009 (EST)
Having a chess game where the public goes up against the public is an interesting concept, but wouldn't prove anything. It is a fairly safe assumption to make that we don't share brain power or intelligence directly with other human beings. We can collaborate and share ideas, which can lead to new discoveries, but I can't add my brain power directly to BenP's intelligence, and Andy can't use mine. One other thing: what exactly makes the 'best of the public'? Is it Education, scope or depth of knowledge, morals? Is it an amalgamation of traits, and if so, which traits? In my opinion it begets a slippery slope. -- CodyH 22:52, 17 December 2009 (EST)
In response to JimR, I am familiar with those simultaneous matches, and I recall my brother User:RSchlafly competing in one as a youngster (and as a member of the public) when a grandmaster visited our small town. As I recall, the expert beat everyone except RSchlafly, who was then playing simply as a random young member of the public.
But while that made for a powerful childhood experience, it wasn't what I really meant here. I suggested Kasparov playing 100 games simultaneously against opponents, each of whom consisted of a process generating the best of the public. If Kasparov focused all his efforts on one or two of those matches, then he might win those, but he would lost perhaps 98% of the matches overall (simultaneous matches are difficult for the person who must hop from board to board). This set-up of course allows the public to harness its greater numbers to its advantage, as often many minds are better than one. But this is a closer analogy to the advancement of knowledge than artificially limiting the contest to merely one chess match between one man and everyone else, a structure that benefits the one man.--Andy Schlafly 23:24, 17 December 2009 (EST)

To me, the idea of the public, collectively knowing what is a better solution, or having the power to best the so-called experts, mirrors the ideas put forward by Ronald Reagan.

It was Reagan, at his first inauguration, who famously declared that "in this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem." President Reagan went on to outline his idea that the "common citizen" was more likely to come up with the right solutions to our problems than all the government "experts" combined.

Of course it is a proven fact that all of the great innovations of America have come from the public, not experts or Big Government. Perhaps I am being too obtuse here, drawing a comparison to the ideas of Reagan and Andy's point. To me the similarities seem striking! --ṬK/Admin/Talk 04:42, 18 December 2009 (EST)

What's the difference between "experts" and "the best of the public?"[edit]

This is an interesting discussion, though I'm having a hard time seeing the difference between an expert and the "best of the public." Isn't an expert precisely that, someone among the public who was gifted enough at something to go through specialized training and become even better? From my own experience, I had a certain degree of musical talent as a child, but would not have excelled had it not been for great teachers and hours of hard work. I calculated the other day that I've practiced the piano somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 hours in my lifetime, with probably around 2000 of those being intensive private work with a teacher of some kind. It's probably true that one of my gifted 10-year-old students could play better on a good day than I could on a bad day, but the experience does count for a lot.
I realize that when it comes to certain problems (the kind of systemic problems Reagan talked about come to mind), common sense counts for a lot more than expertise. But at any rate, I don't see how translating the Bible or playing chess is more a matter of common sense than experience. That's why Kasparov vs. the World shows precisely that talent and expertise can beat amateurs putting their heads together. Having thousands of hours of work under your belt gives you a much more comprehensive perspective, much more depth, than having a few good and untested ideas. JDWpianist 08:03, 18 December 2009 (EST)
I agree completely, and I feel you are exposing an aspect of the problem which needs to come to light. There is a difference between expertise (as in actually having the skill of playing the piano well) and holding the status of an expert. Expertise must be manifested, while being called an expert is often only political.
They awarded the Nobel Peace Prize to Al Gore, even though he knows nothing about global warming science and has been scolded by British courts for lying to the public. He's an example of the kind of "expert" who retards progress in science and the humanities.
The promise of online encyclopedia projects is that contributors with true expertise (such as yourself) will emerge. --Ed Poor Talk 08:32, 18 December 2009 (EST)
Excellent points, but in response to JDWpianist an "expert" is a particular type of person who pursued a particular credentialing path. It usually entails years of specialized learning from ages 16 to 25, at the sacrifice of other activities or pursuits. Typically experts are from middle or upper class families that value credentials. Women who have children during those ages -- the most natural ages for childbearing, are disqualified. Also, criticizing the mainstream or saying something politically incorrect is a disqualification. Only a tiny percentage of the public fits this narrow track of an "expert".
The best of the public draws on the entire population, including those who worked full time during the formative age group but developed expertise later, and those who reject the politics of academia. With the far greater numbers and freedom from political restraints (politics in the sense of political correctness), the "best of the public" is far better and yet is remains a largely untapped resource. Obviously there is self-interested opposition by entrenched interests to even developing this.--Andy Schlafly 09:48, 18 December 2009 (EST)
(Replying to TK above) An excellent modern example of one person getting the answer when hundreds of government experts were failing is the Challenger disaster. It was maverick physicist Richard Feynmann who deduced that rubber sealing rings exposed to excessive cold had cracked. Meanwhile, all the "experts" were going through a process that almost seemed designed to hide this fact.
Of course, if Feynmann weren't a celebrity he never would have been able to penetrate the stonewall of the investigation (coverup?), but that's precisely my point. At Conservapedia (and some other online encyclopedia projects), we are opening up the possibility of criticizing the mainstream - and we are showing the mainstream to be wildly incorrect in many instances. The recent exposure of the climate fraud (see Climategate) is something we've been covering here for over 2 years.
But it's not just us on the Internet (a purely American invention, by the way). It's American democracy, with freedom of the press, which allows the best ideas to bubble up and reach the surface. No one can put a lid on the truth here. --Ed Poor Talk 10:11, 18 December 2009 (EST)
Ed brings up an interesting example, and I can think of a few other cases in the sciences where a non-expert or group of non-experts has had important ideas. It would be an interesting experiment to attempt to harness the "best of the public" toward a specific problem in science. For example, if I set up a Wiki with rules along the lines of CP (or even just used CP), recruited helpful and skilled editors, and had access to the most important data, what is the chance that the editors would be able to improve on the theory of relativity, showcasing the power of the "best of the public"? I think the answer is probably no. But perhaps such a program could succeed with something a little easier first. I more interested in the principle of the thing and the limitations of the BoP methodology. Do you think it would be possible to utilize the best of the public in such a manner, toward a very specific goal? --JimR 10:43, 18 December 2009 (EST)

Well, let's take a slightly different example. If you took a group of students and showed them an "unsolvable" math problem, what are the odds that the best of them would be able to solve it, when the solution had eluded the experts for years? Of course, this is a little bit of a trick question, as it actually happened--George Dantzig, a student, copied down two problems from the board. Not realizing that they were on the board as examples of theorems for which nobody had been able to work out a proof, he proceeded to do exactly that. Had he known that the problems were "unsolvable"--in other words, had he been more fully immersed in the subculture of expertise--he likely wouldn't have even attempted to solve them. It might not work so well all the time, but it undoubtedly works. --Benp 17:52, 18 December 2009 (EST)

To Andy: That's an interesting distinction, the first time I've heard it put that way. Still one point for me is unclear. Are you saying that the "best of the public," as per your definition, is made up of people who do have expertise in a field, just not the credentials required for them to be called "experts?" Or are you saying, rather, that one does not need to invest time and hard work in a field at all to contribute meaningfully to it?

To Ed: There's a certain blindspot that can indeed occur with experts: I'm no conspiracy theorist, so I'll always assume "groupthink" over "coverup" in these types of situations unless extraordinary evidence surfaces. As to this blindspot, I'm reminded of a quote from the great British music-critic Donald Francis Tovey, noting that when approaching certain complex musical passages, analysts can be guilty of "making an exhaustive chemical analysis of a plum-pudding and omitting to ascertain that the cook had boiled it in a cloth." Sometimes the simplest explanations are invisible to the technically-minded experts, but we also can't forget that the right answers are always found by people who know their stuff, whatever their credentials. In other words, Joe the Plumber could not have made any meaningful guess as to what brought the Challenger down. JDWpianist 18:15, 18 December 2009 (EST)

JDWpianist, you still seem to cling to the "expert" point of view, as though being "smart" means having superb insights, while not being "smart" means an incapability to do so. In fact, excellence can appear from unexpected places. Bob Beamon set a record for the long jump that lasted perhaps 30 years even though he was not generally a great long-jumper. Or purely mechanically, a broken clock is more precise than a working clock is, twice a day. Some of the very best songs (e.g., American Pie) have been by artists incapable of anything comparable.
Whether you understand occasional insights as inspired achievement, the work of the Spirit, or simply luck, it doesn't matter. What does matter is that greatness often comes from outside of the recognized experts.--Andy Schlafly 15:53, 20 December 2009 (EST)
Purely mechanically, a clock that goes backwards is more precise than a broken clock, 4 times a day. A clock that runs 1000 times faster than normal is correct 2000 times a day.Occultations 08:38, 24 December 2012 (EST)
But how to decide when a broken clock is precise? To check the two times a day, you need another chronometer, i.e., a kind of expert in time-keeping :-)
It's the same problem as with Perelman's proof: you need someone to recognize that something marvelous has happened.
Take for instance the squaring of a circle. Every mathematician knows that it is impossible, using only a ruler and a compass. But nevertheless, there are lots of members of the public who think that they found a way, and are just ignored by the mainstream mathematicians...
AFAIK, in the beginning of the 20th century, the university of Goettingen employed a mathematician just for the task to refute all the attempts of laymen to proof Fermat's conjecture: many of the public where inspired by Paul Wolfskehl's reward, all of them were wrong.
FrankC aka ComedyFan 16:56, 20 December 2009 (EST)
(edit conflict)
(You can call me John by the way...) Actually, I have a very open mind about this, as it's been clear to me for a long time that creativity and inspiration are very different animals than competence and technique. And all of these are still different from the issue of "credentials" you gave earlier. Your "American Pie" example blurs the lines between these: it was a great song written by a competent professional singer/songwriter. The fact that Don McClean was able to write a song at all shows that he at least knows how to sing, how to play an instrument or two, how to set text to a melody, and how harmony works together with melody. Any one of these are considerable technical achievements, and that's why not everyone can write a song, much less a good one. The fact that he hasn't come up with anything comparably great has little to do with his abilities as a musician, and more to do with a lack of inspiration or creativity.
My biggest question is still with the definition of expert. Ideas are different things than achievements, don't you agree? Would the Wright Brothers have succeeded without expertise in engineering, math, and a deep understanding of scientific trial and error? Those skills did not fall from the sky. So are you saying that your definition of "expert" is only a matter of credentials, regardless of abilities obtained through practice and hard-earned knowledge? Or are you saying that the "best of the public" don't need credentials or an ability to turn ideas into achievements? JDWpianist 17:21, 20 December 2009 (EST)
John, an "expert" is someone who has traditional credentials, is recognized by his peers, and plays the system often to maximize credit for himself. If you're suggesting I'm somehow against learning and hard work, I'm obviously not. Contributions by non-experts typically, but not necessarily always, are by people who picked up their own knowledge through hard work and non-conventional paths. There can be "flashes of genius" too, like the woman who woke up in the middle of the night with verses to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic." If you're determined to deny a role for inspired wisdom, then obviously I'd disagree with you about that.--Andy Schlafly 17:52, 20 December 2009 (EST)
An expert plays the system often to maximize credit for himself. This addendum to your prior explanation guarantees at least that no one will see himself as an expert under your definition.
FrankC aka ComedyFan 01:01, 21 December 2009 (EST)
Frank, what are you talking about? Let me tell you about myself. I love math, and my career goal is to become a math professor - do what I love all day and get payed for it? Sign me up! In order to do this, I have to make sure that my work is accredited to me. I freely admit that in pursuing my goal of becoming an expert in mathematics, I will try to make sure that my work is attributed to me. JacobB 01:11, 21 December 2009 (EST)
  • at least for me,playing the system seems to invoke only negative connotations
  • would you say that Perelman is an expert mathematician?
FrankC aka ComedyFan 07:03, 21 December 2009 (EST)
If you're defining expert as somebody who is extremely good at something, as you seem to be inclined to do. If you accept our position here, then no, since he doesn't even work in the field. JacobB 19:59, 21 December 2009 (EST)
FrankC, your talk, talk, talk is contrary to our 90/10 rule. Your solitary substantive edit in your last ten is of a trivial nature. Please contribute substantively, for your benefit and that of others.
In response to your question, Perelman rejected an attempt by "experts" to honor him as one of their own: he declined the Fields Medal.--Andy Schlafly 20:14, 21 December 2009 (EST)
Gee Andy, if you put it that way, who would want to call himself an expert? :)
All joking aside, this is a very stimulating topic, and I believe that there are some very vital issues being raised by the whole debate, some of the most vital I've seen on Conservapedia so far. That's why, you'll notice, I came into this thread not with criticisms and complaints, but only with questions.
That being said, I'll agree to disagree on your definition and many of the examples on the main page, for several reasons. I'll lay them out for you, and you can feel free to integrate what's valuable to you and ignore the rest:
  • As my quip at the top implied, this definition has such a negative slant that it basically ensures no one will dare disagree with the formulation "The best of the public is better than a group of experts." It's the classic "if by whiskey" problem. When you said up above that I "seem to be clinging to the expert position," I would have to agree with you, but only according to the dictionary definition of expert: "A person with a high degree of skill in or knowledge of a certain subject."
  • This definition lumps all areas of knowledge or skills together. This is especially a problem with fields in which experts, by your definition, simply do not exist. Take your musical examples: it's essentially meaningless to call pop/rock singer/songwriters "the best of the public," because there's no such thing as a credentialed path in pop songwriting. Artists rise or fall from obscurity based on the quality or popularity of their songs, and there's no clique of credentialed pop songwriting academics conspiring to keep anyone out. Therefore, everyone who writes a song or a song text, by your definition, is "the best of the public." These examples, and any others having to do with creative pursuits, are strawmen.
  • It's the same problem with inventions that represent something radically new. Take the Wright Brothers: at the time they invented the first successful flying machine, there were no "aviation experts." There were lots of competitors, some who had successfully scored government grants, and like with any new invention, there were several competing factions and a lot of harsh words thrown around. This is not the same as a clique of credentialed elitist experts trying to keep the Wright Brothers out of the picture. By definition, whenever something new is invented, your kind of "expert" is nowhere to be found.
  • Your definition excludes professions where credentials are desirable and even necessary. Obviously, you would prefer a surgeon who's been to medical school performing your triple bypass, or a licensed pilot flying the plane you're on. Perhaps this problem solves itself, because your concept deals mostly with innovations and new insights, whereas these fields I mention require competence and conservatism by definition. Still, it might be a thought worth considering as you sharpen your argument on the main page.
  • To sum it all up, the definition you created is applied inconsistently in the page's examples. I would recommend narrowing the page's focus to the fields with a real opposition between groupthinking closed-minded experts and open-minded mavericks.
For the record, I do think that you're on to something very important with this concept. The dialectic of "inspired wisdom" vs. "entrenched thinking" is a compelling one. As a musician, teacher, and writer on music, I deal with this problem daily in my own work. It's my hope and prayer that after I've become one of those entrenched members of the academic establishment, I'll still have an open mind for ideas that come from outside of the maistream. JDWpianist 08:34, 22 December 2009 (EST)
John, you make many points in your comment above. The bottom line is that you deny how wrong, how biased, and how unproductive groups of experts are. For example, in the Wright Brothers case you avoid the basic point and instead remark that there were no "aviation experts" at that time. Aviation is simply a branch of mechanical engineering; it existed and its experts insisted that heavier-than-air flying machines were impossible. Similarly, re: music, your comments are again off-point to the observation that one-hit wonders are better than what the "expert" musicians produce in pop music.
The fundamental insight here is not simply opposition by the establishment, but rather that the best of the public really is better at innovating, at communicating, at open-mindedness, at being free of fear of retaliation, and at honesty than any group of experts is. There are many, many reasons experts are second-best, yet you only recognize one or two.
This debate illustrates how efficient a political explanation is. Liberals prefer a system of control by experts because experts can be so easily influenced and controlled themselves. The global warming scam is just one of many illustrations. Also, liberals rely on reassurances by experts that, for example, Hell somehow does not exist. It's a misplaced reliance.--Andy Schlafly 15:05, 22 December 2009 (EST)
I had intended to just let my suggestions stand, but I think you've fundamentally misunderstood my position, so I'll try to clarify it:
Your main point, as I understand it, is that in every field there is a group of credentialed experts who are the gatekeepers of all ideas falling under their domain. Because of their narrow-mindedness and orthodoxy, they are unable to produce any radically new insights. Therefore, people who fall outside of this group, "the best of the pubic" as you call them, will produce the most interesting insights. Have I understood this much correctly?
The problem with this model is, if there's no group of credentialed experts in a certain field, then there's nothing to compare. If "the best of the public" represents anyone outside of this elite group, then without the elite group everybody counts as the best of the public.
According to your definition there is no group of recognized experts in creative fields; you can't go to the university and get a songwriting degree, there are no distinguished professors in songwriting at Princeton (last I checked). In your last post, you said something about "expert" musicians, but then you're falling back on the traditional definition, not your own. The fact that your original definition doesn't work with pop music means that either the definition is flawed, or the examples do not match your definition.
My basic position is, I'm in total agreement with the spirit of your argument: that essentially, the best ideas come from outside of the established modes of thinking. But I believe the main page does not yet express that concept with clear-headed logic, as there are too many examples that do not fit with your definitions. You've embraced a very narrow definition of "expert" and are unable to use it consistently through to the end. JDWpianist 17:54, 22 December 2009 (EST)
John, I don't see logic or specifics in your comment. "Nothing to compare," you say. Of course there's something to compare: the output of experts to the output of the best of the public. And in every field, the latter wins easily, as the many specific examples show.
You keep returning to music and ignoring all the other fields, but the same observation holds true in music. One-hit wonders are an undeniable phenomenon, and they surpass the best of the experts. The "credentialing" in music includes acclaim by peers and the prestige of insider awards and status, just as in other fields. The Beatles were experts, yet no song they produced was as good or as appreciated as the one-hit wonders.--Andy Schlafly 21:17, 22 December 2009 (EST)
Andy, I guess we're just talking past each other now. That probably means it's time that we agree to disagree and call it a day. Again, congratulations on a fascinating new concept, and good luck as you refine it further. Merry Christmas to you and your family. JDWpianist 17:50, 23 December 2009 (EST)
That's kind of you John. We can always revisit this issue some time next year. Merry Christmas to you and your family!--Andy Schlafly 18:00, 23 December 2009 (EST)

Andy, were the Beatles really experts? Yes, they certainly knew a good deal about music and were payed to make it, but were they trained as musicians? Eventually they became acknowledged as one of the best bands, just as eventually Galois is now recognized as a brilliant mathematician, but does that make them experts? I'd say both are examples of the best of the public! JacobB 21:38, 22 December 2009 (EST)

Galois is a superb example to add to the entry. The Beatles were thoroughly embraced and given awards and held out to the public as "experts". Academic training in music seems less significant, as John pointed out. But there's room for debate at the margins.--Andy Schlafly 22:30, 22 December 2009 (EST)
Andy and JDW are in partial agreement, and I hope the article can reflect that agreement. But as for me, I'll just say that there have been many times when the "credentialed crowd" has used their credentials as a crowbar to hit newcomers over the head when they challenged mainstream expertise. That's the real story here.
Now, the challenger can often be a mere beginner. I've lost count of how many situations I've walked into, where I could see clearly what others were overlooking. Some people call this beginner's luck. But there are many situations when an outsider or newcomer has been able to point out a marvelous new approach to an old problem - which, sooner or later, comes to be recognized as having hit the nail on the head.
I might be departing a bit from the theme of "best of the public" here, but going off on tangents is what I do best around here. --Ed Poor Talk 15:16, 24 December 2009 (EST)

Linux/open-source an example of this?[edit]

Is this reasonable to add to the Linux article? I thought I would ask this here, instead of the talk page for Linux, to hopefully reach more members and get some feedback. Even though many of the developers throughout the open source movement could be considered experts (in the colloquial sense that they know their field very well and apply that knowledge with considerable dedication and skill) they are not experts in the modern sense. I would argue that the collaborative efforts of the open source community could be considered the "Best of the public," as even computer users without programming knowledge file bug reports and use the products daily, therefore increasing the quality incrementally. Tzoran 11:31, 18 December 2009 (EST)

Excellent insight. Please do include this example.--Andy Schlafly 11:55, 18 December 2009 (EST)
Thank you; I'll include this immediately. Tzoran 12:06, 18 December 2009 (EST)
Even Microsoft acknowledges this power:
I updated the open source and Linux articles accordingly. Should I add your reference to the open source article, Ed, or leave that to you? I feel we should include it as a great testament to its progress (especially if Microsoft feels partially threatened by it, as other parts of your link seem to indicate).Tzoran 12:28, 18 December 2009 (EST)
The funny thing is that while Linux shows how good The Best of the Public can be, Microsoft simultaneously shows the other end; being a company that is looked down upon by very many informaticians, while it is generally seen as the best IT company in the world. A closer look on their software, though, shows that their products are of very poor quality, and their programs would probably not be nearly as populair if it wasn't for Microsoft's monopoly in the IT market. MalP


I don't know for sure about the rest of the details, but calling him an "unknown" is an exaggeration. Perelman received a PhD from a top university and was already noted for his slick proof of the "Soul theorem" in Riemannian geometry, which had already become commonly taught. No, he wasn't a leading mathematician, but he was not unknown by any reasonable stretch of the imagination. --JimR 11:12, 19 December 2009 (EST)

The Perelman example is quite interesting: who decided that Perelman found a proof? The public? No, a couple of experts... FrankC aka ComedyFan 12:08, 19 December 2009 (EST)
What you have to understand is that "best of the public" doesn't exclude experts, or make light of their expertise. It just acknowledges the very obvious truth that they're not the only ones with expertise, and allows other voices and other perspectives to be heard. Rather than "I'm an expert, therefore you have to listen to my ideas," it's "You have good ideas, therefore we will listen." --Benp 13:32, 19 December 2009 (EST)
(edit conflict)I expected the Perelman example to ruffle the feathers of expert-defenders, precisely because it illustrates the point so well. I don't think "Perelman received a PhD from a top university," though I have an open mind about it (I think he received something other than a PhD from an institution ranked nowhere near the international top). More importantly, Perelman was not given a permanent job, was not recognized as an expert, and indeed was somewhat ostracized by the experts to the point where he was left to produce his great work on his own from his mother's apartment. Then an expert allegedly tried to take the credit!
Note that Perelman himself has been highly critical of the expert mentality in mathematics, to the point where he sacrificed much money to turn down the experts' honors. Sorry, not even mathematical experts are better than the "best of the public," despite the discomfort some will have with that revelation.--Andy Schlafly 13:40, 19 December 2009 (EST)
At the risk of beating the drum too loudly on ClimateGate, it was outside mathematicians (not climate "experts") who showed the Michael Mann's denial of the worldwide Medieval Warm Period was statistically unsound (at best) and really just a crude example of academic fraud. --Ed Poor Talk 13:51, 19 December 2009 (EST)
Excellent point, Ed. Could you add an item to the entry about who those outside mathematicians were? (I don't know).--Andy Schlafly 13:57, 19 December 2009 (EST)
I'm not arguing that Perelman doesn't belong on the list, I'm arguing that to call him an "unknown" is simply wrong. He had done other fairly important work before this. --JimR 14:08, 19 December 2009 (EST)
You are probably right about his degree not being from a top university internationally; but it was at Leningrad, one of the top schools in Russia. He then held positions at Steklov, SUNY Stony Brook, Berkeley, and Courant. These are all major research centers -- off the top of my head I can name Fields medalists currently at each of them except Courant, and it wouldn't surprise me I'm forgetting one there too. Perelman apparently had job offers from Stanfold and Princeton -- such offers go only to the very top prospects, and certainly not "unknowns". --JimR 14:23, 19 December 2009 (EST)
Wow, you're awfully tough on me here, JimR. You can decide for yourself whether you're applying a double standard in your reaction. Note, for example, in a very well-written article by the liberal Independent, it describes Perelman as an "unknown Russian" right in its headline.[3] Is that article also objectionable?
As to your statement that Perelman "held positions," those positions were insulting for someone on track to produce the greatest proof of our time. Those schools may well have Fields medalists in respectable positions, but that's the point: Perelman was never offered a respectable position commensurate with his talent. Your argument is as fallacious as bragging that a brilliant coach was offered a staff position ... as water boy.
Tell you what: I'll change "unknown" to "little known." OK?--Andy Schlafly 18:34, 19 December 2009 (EST)
Looks good to me. Thanks! --JimR 19:14, 19 December 2009 (EST)

Manhattan project[edit]

The Manhattan project seems to be an ultimate example for a great innovations of America which came not from the public, but from experts and Big Government. FrankC aka ComedyFan 12:12, 19 December 2009 (EST)

But follow the project back to its roots, Frank. You'll find that many of those whose ideas led the government to pursue that line of research are a splendid example of "best of the public." Nobody's saying that experts can't take the ball and run with it, but frequently, it's someone outside their little circle who tosses the ball in the first place. --Benp 13:38, 19 December 2009 (EST)

Wright Brothers[edit]

People seem keen to find counter-examples, so let's talk about some examples. What about the Wright Brothers? They certainly weren't part of any elite fraternity of engineers--neither one even graduated from high school. Their endeavors were greeted with open mockery and accusations of fraud from the "experts" of the aviation community, particularly in Europe. They're certainly one of the finest examples of what American ingenuity and can-do attitude can accomplish. --Benp 14:15, 19 December 2009 (EST)

(whacks own forehead in mock despair) I should have thought of that myself! Not only did they make a lighter, more powerful engine, but they weren't professionals at all: mere bicycle mechanics, really. And yet they solved the crucial aspect of powered flight: controlling the aircraft in the air. Their idea of warping the wings prefigured ailerons, and was the chief reason their flights succeeded while everyone else's ended in crash after crash. --Ed Poor Talk 14:59, 19 December 2009 (EST)


Another maverick, wasn't astronomer Galileo Galilei largely self-taught? --Ed Poor Talk 15:01, 19 December 2009 (EST)

Galileo isn't a clear-cut case. He was more of a political figure who was wrong about some basic stuff (like tides). His own contributions were not substantial.--Andy Schlafly 15:48, 19 December 2009 (EST)
What's about Albert Einstein? In 1905, he was an unknown clerk at a Swiss patent's office, but the leading experts of his field instantly accepted his work! FrankC aka ComedyFan 17:27, 19 December 2009 (EST)
Intriguing suggestion, but also potentially confusing because Albert Einstein is so widely publicized as the quintessential expert today. Someone reading the entry might think, "If Einstein isn't an example of an expert, then who would be?"--Andy Schlafly 18:39, 19 December 2009 (EST)

It seems like sometimes overcompensation occurs. A member of the public is scoffed at by the experts, turns out to be right, and is eventually put on a pedestal and held to be infallible. I doubt that Einstein would approve of the way people treat his theories as if they were unquestionable. --Benp 19:04, 19 December 2009 (EST)
"If Einstein isn't an example of an expert, then who would be?" The same can be said about mathematicians in general - most of the public will shy away from this area. And though the feuds over precedence between mathematicians are legendary (Cardano/Tartaglia,Newton/Leibniz), generally mathematicians are more respected for their work than their positions and titles (Paul Erdős).
But it's a game played by experts in front of other experts: the public doesn't understand most questions (Consider a compact 3-dimensional manifold V without boundary. Is it possible that the fundamental group of V could be trivial, even though V is not homeomorphic to the 3-dimensional sphere?), and even less the answers (No).
FrankC aka ComedyFan 10:34, 20 December 2009 (EST)
The public is 6 billion people and, yes, many of them are capable of understanding higher math. Your comment, Frank, illustrates the very harm caused by an "experts only" mentality. By false pretending that no one else can understand something, the "experts only" mentality shuts out and censors many people who are brighter and more productive than the arrogant experts ... as Perelman and others like him are.--Andy Schlafly 10:54, 20 December 2009 (EST)
But Perelman is an expert:
an "expert" is a particular type of person who pursued a particular credentialing path. It usually entails years of specialized learning from ages 16 to 25, at the sacrifice of other activities or pursuits.
He filled his years of specialized learning with a degree of a Candidate of Sciences, the soviet version of a Ph.D. He didn't dibble around with mathematics as an amateur (Fermat), he was a full-time scientist.
He's an eccentric expert, but an expert nonetheless.
BTW, the segment of the 6 billion people who understand mathematics way beyond higher math are called experts or mathematicians (well, sometimes physicists).
FrankC aka ComedyFan 11:12, 20 December 2009 (EST)
Frank, you're simply redefining "expert" more broadly once you see how members of the public achieve more than experts do. In Perelman's case, he didn't even have a math job, and he expressly criticized and repudiated the math experts who control the field. Apparently Perelman has even given up math because of the suffocation (and non-productivity) caused by the math experts.--Andy Schlafly 13:21, 20 December 2009 (EST)

  • When he proved the theorem, Perelman had a math job (several, I think...)
  • Aren't you an expert in law? Do you have a law job? If you hadn't, would you be no expert any longer?
FrankC aka ComedyFan 16:23, 20 December 2009 (EST)
Justice seems to be an interesting test for your principle: though juries introduce a public element (I don't think that they are meant to be the best of the public), it doesn't seem to be a good advice for a defendant to do without an expert counsel, i.e., a lawyer. FrankC aka ComedyFan 16:45, 20 December 2009 (EST)
...but haven't you just answered your own question, Frank? If expertise was the be-all and end-all of justice, then there would be no need for a jury; the matter would be entirely in the hands of the judge and the attorneys. However, the Founding Fathers, while respecting the expertise of such individuals, ultimately chose to trust in the wisdom of the public to render a verdict. Would you argue that their choice was unwise? I think our system of justice has worked out pretty well, personally. In fact, I think you may have offered up one of the finest and clearest examples of the principle yet. "Best of the public" is exactly what jury deliberation represents--the faith that a group drawn from the public, without any special credentials or qualifications, can, through deliberation and collaboration, achieve insight. --Benp 17:27, 20 December 2009 (EST)
I like the jury example too. Cases aren't decided by panels of lawyers, but by a (hopefully) representative sample of one's peers, drawn from all walks of life. They don't have to have expertise in law to be given good instructions by the judge as to what laws matter in the case at hand, and they are trusted to use those instructions and the evidence to render a fair verdict. It's not a perfect system, but I feel there are no better alternatives so far. --ChrisY 10:02, 22 December 2009 (EST)


Would it make more sense to create a section for the examples under the table of contents? --Benp 19:06, 19 December 2009 (EST)

That would be great, Ben! Please continue to improve as you think best.--Andy Schlafly 15:48, 20 December 2009 (EST)

A different take on this[edit]

I've been reading this thread and watched the Colbert segment mentioned in the article, and I think I figured out the inherent problem with the phrase "The best of the public is better than a group of experts".

As others have pointed out above, the best of the public are often experts themselves. The definition of "a group of experts" was then qualified to state that it's not expertise that's bad, but the groupthink, stubbornness or elitism that can result when experts in a field have a reluctance to embrace radical change or innovative ideas even when they are proven to be right. That's why I like the open source analogy - Microsoft was content to decide how fast the browser should be improved and in what ways, but the Mozilla project was more innovative because it was driven bottom-up by merit instead of top-down by policy.

Christianity experienced this when Martin Luther posted his Theses. He was certainly an expert on religion and the Bible, but his ideas were out of favor with the establishment leading the Catholic Church, which was resistant to change. His work didn't invalidate Catholicism, but public acceptance of his insights led to some bad practices being ended by the Catholic Church, and triggered the entire Protestant Reformation.

In short, it's not expertise that's the problem, it's a group of people declaring that they are the gatekeepers for contributions to a field of expertise, and subsequently stifling innovation. What I'd suggest as an alternative is this: "The best innovations of the public can outdo the established experts". This isn't as catchy as the original, but it seems to hit the core point without sounding as self-contradicting. --ChrisY 00:30, 22 December 2009 (EST)

You make some interesting and challenging points, and I hope to respond more fully tomorrow. But as a quick response, I feel you overlook key issues, such as "inspired wisdom" (e.g., Gospel of Mark, or authorship of "Battle Hymn of the Republic") and also how "expertise" can have a blinding effect as well as a beneficial one (e.g., Wright Brothers, Fosbury Flop). In sum, any alternative articulation of the rule would have to explain the many examples, and I'm afraid yours isn't quite there. But thanks for sparking thought about this.--Andy Schlafly 01:21, 22 December 2009 (EST)
I'm not looking to take anything away from contributions that comes from flashes of insight, but those are really in a different category altogether. It seems like harnessing of the power of individuals shouldn't necessarily depend on some of them having inspired moments of insight or inspired wisdom, because I thought the whole point of the original comment is that the best ideas need to be allowed to surface and circulate regardless of how they came about.
I'm also not sure I understand how my comments overlooked what you call thee "blinding effect of expertise". What I was trying to say is that when experts form an establishment that acts as the filter, judge and jury of new ideas in a given field, the result can be helpful (i.e. in determining the safety of new drugs before they are allowed to be sold) or harmful (i.e. tying up the use of valuable radio spectrum while "expert" stakeholders with billions at stake decide how it should best be used). In an ideal world there can be any number of experts out there, but little to no barrier for the circulation and promotion of the best ideas from among them. --ChrisY 08:44, 22 December 2009 (EST)
ChrisY, you don't specifically address the many diverse and specific examples of where the "best of the public" is better than any group of experts. And I don't see anything ambiguous or confusing about the phrase the "blinding effect of expertise." Becoming an expert means committing oneself to a particular approach, and that obviously has a blinding effect on innovation and alternative approaches. An alternative approach might even discredit an expert's lifetime of work, which no one would expect him to welcome. It's been observed that innovation cannot occur until the older generation of "experts" passes away, and even that the 40 years of Israelites wandering in the desert was intended to erase the debilitating mindset of slavery. "Experts" have a mindset, and it's less productive than the best of the public.--Andy Schlafly 15:05, 22 December 2009 (EST)

It's typical of liberals to muddy the waters with verbal quibbles. Everyone knows what we meant when we said the public can often outdo the experts. The word expert is clearly understood in that context, Chris, to mean "established experts" or "acknowledged experts". Only a fool (or an enemy) would think (or suggest) that we meant that having expert knowledge was useless.

If I see any more of this malarkey here, I'm going to start deleting comments and blocking accounts. Kindly confine your comments to points that are relevant to improving the article.

It's one thing to disagree, and that sort of feedback can often be editorially valuable, but to pretend not to understand is deceitful. You have been warned. --Ed Poor Talk 17:17, 22 December 2009 (EST)

Thanks, Ed, for your sage remarks and policy. Honestly, the more I review the objections here, the more I think it boils down to this: liberals cling to the (absurd) view that experts define the truth, and can eliminate accountability (like Hell). Such a view is shocked by the reality that experts are not even as good as the best of the public at what the experts do, let alone about things experts know nothing about.--Andy Schlafly 17:36, 22 December 2009 (EST)
I offered some constructive comments above that were described by others as "interesting and challenging", and now they're "malarkey". Sorry I said anything at all, Ed. --ChrisY 20:05, 22 December 2009 (EST)

Examples, part 2[edit]

We have many examples of the best of the public making extraordinary achievements, but non of experts being wrong or creating obstacles. Off the top of my head, Lord Kelvin claiming heavier than air flight was impossible and that radioactivity was impossible. I'll try and think of more examples (not right now, I am leaving for a 5 hour drive in a few minutes) but soon. What does everybody think of these kinds of examples? Worth including? JacobB 18:40, 23 December 2009 (EST)

Sounds great. That's interesting about Lord Kelvin.--Andy Schlafly 22:42, 23 December 2009 (EST)
I almost think that should be an article unto itself. It's certainly an important topic. Not sure what it would be called, though. "Expert Obstructionism?" "Expert Error?" --Benp 23:14, 23 December 2009 (EST)
The obstructionism is a bigger problem, but the error is a problem too and its term is more concise and easier to remember. So I'll start "Expert Error" and have another entry called "Expert Obstructionism" that redirects to it.--Andy Schlafly 23:33, 23 December 2009 (EST)
I would strongly recommend going back to the line of "Expert Obstructionism", which is an actual problem. There's nothing wrong with anyone, even experts, making errors as long as they are accepting of being corrected. To criticize error itself is to criticize the spirit of risk-taking, which I doubt folks here want to do. I recall Edison saying something along the line of "I can fail many times, but I only have to succeed once", and the number of failed attempts at a viable light-bulb filament before his success. --ChrisY 09:38, 24 December 2009 (EST)
You make a valid point, but "obstructionism" is a clumsy label and errors by experts are a big problem and intrinsically different to correct. An expert's insistence on an erroneous position is inherently obstructionist, so in practice there may be little difference between the two labels. If you see something included where an expert erred but welcomed correction, then let's discuss it, but those examples are few and far between.--Andy Schlafly 10:36, 24 December 2009 (EST)
You're right, Andy. How about "Expert Blindness" or "Expertise Blindness"? This is simpler, and ties into points you've made above. --ChrisY 11:13, 24 December 2009 (EST)
  • As an ethnic Hungarian, Ignaz Semmelweiss' status as an outsider seemed to undermine his credibility and, despite the clear evidence that he compiled, doctors refused to accept that they were killing their own patients. [4]

He was the first to compile systematic and practical evidence for what later came to be known as Pasteur's germ theory of disease. He was truly the "best of the public", but vilified and rejected by the experts of his time. --Ed Poor Talk 16:53, 24 December 2009 (EST)

Superb suggestion, Ed. I'm familiar with that case and it does illustrate the point well. Would you like to add it?
Chris, I don't think "blindness" is an appropriate metaphor. "Blindness" implies an involuntary disability. Expert errors and obstructionism are very intentional.--Andy Schlafly 17:21, 24 December 2009 (EST)
For those who are interested in expanding Expert Error, there are a TON more in my one reference that I haven't added (some because they weren't experts in the field they were commenting on, eg, Einstein on geology) but are still very interesting. JacobB 17:24, 24 December 2009 (EST)
I also see a tie-in to Upward mobility, a concept that liberals routinely ignore with a deafening, reverberating silence. They love to pretend that our economic system is so unfair as to be repressive, when precisely the opposite is true: we've designed it to all cream to rise to the top. --Ed Poor Talk 13:50, 26 December 2009 (EST)

Founding Fathers[edit]

America can be thought of as the best of the public. The framers came together as a group, not as experts but to represent the colonists. The nations articles of confederation were crafted in such a way that describes authentic representation, public servants, elected by the public, serving the needs of the public and not themselves. Nobody back then would believe that the public, on its own, would come to the same conclusion and separate from the British Kingdom.--Jpatt 14:02, 26 December 2009 (EST)

That's really odd. I could've sworn I'd included our democratic republic as an outstanding example of "best of the public"--as opposed to the European ideal of "expert" hereditary nobility, or the mobocracy of pure democracy. Did it get removed for some reason? --Benp 14:50, 26 December 2009 (EST)
Ah, found it--it was in the text of the article, but not the list of examples. Fixed. --Benp 14:55, 26 December 2009 (EST)

Interesting about the Founding Fathers: they tried to ensure the Best of the Public in government. They restricted the franchise to only property owners. This was intended so that only those with intelligence and a work ethic could vote. The point was to ensure that only the best of the public could control government. This was the real check against mobocracy. A mobocracy occurs in anytime time and place where there's universal franchise. --Double Edge 11:30, 21 May 2010 (EDT)

Thanks for your fascinating point about how Founders might have viewed the restriction on franchise. But the universal franchise may have made the nation more conservative in many respects. Many pro-lifers, for example, would not have qualified for voting under the Founders' view.--Andy Schlafly 15:16, 21 May 2010 (EDT)

My main point was that if you want to talk about how the founders prevented mobocracy, restricting the franchise ought to be mentioned, since this is a method that they obviously used. However, to respond to your point, yes maybe people of good conscience would have been barred from voting. The point of restricting the franchise was not to ensure that every good person voted, but to ensure that all (or at least most) voters were good. It seems obvious to restrict the franchise, after all, intelligent or capable of government is a prerequisite to just government. If this is so, then it seems only natural to restrict the franchise to those who have proven themselves to be intelligent and/or hard working, so that only those people can control the government. I find it incredibly hypocritical sometimes, that people praise the founding fathers for the government they set up, but ignore that that government had restricted franchise. Finally, I'm almost certain that if George Washington could see the state of our republic with universal franchise, he would horrified. --Double Edge 19:20, 21 May 2010 (EDT)

You make a libertarian point here, and you make it well. But if you were correct about this, then the wealthier a society is, the less socialistic it should be. That's not true. Massachusetts is one of the wealthiest states, and one of the most socialistic. When it was poor, it was more conservative than today. An increase in wealth sometimes brings an increase in liberal falsehoods.
I'm not convinced that limiting franchise would limit the size of government or liberal falsehoods. I think our nation is more conservative with universal franchise than it was when franchise was limited.--Andy Schlafly 16:21, 22 May 2010 (EDT)

My point was not that wealth should dictate the franchise, but that there should be qualifications, and I have alternatives to property ownership. Further, if universal franchise made the government more conservative, how do you explain the election of George Bush or Barack Obama. It's obvious that a limited franchise would result in more limited government. Take any nanny state program like social security, universal health care, or free public education, and you find that the wealthy aren't the ones who actually benefit from these programs. Only the poor can stand to benefit from these programs. Take into account also, the way our tax system is set up. The federal tax system, taxes the poor substantially less than the rich. Many Americans pay no taxes at all because they are poor. Why would the wealthy be in favor of a tax system that favors the poor over the rich. So at this point, not only is the tax system redistributing the wealth, but the government is running programs (that no one has any intention of stopping) that give goodies like education and health care to the poor. Now, if the American voters are so conservative, answer this: why does the government favor the poor so much. Better yet, tell me why poor Americans will vote for a flat tax rate, which would increase their taxes. I sincerely doubt that universal franchise has helped, and it's obvious that a qualified voter is always preferable to unqualified voter. Wealth isn't necessarily the ideal qualification, but if only rich people had been voting throughout American history, I doubt we'd have social security. The current problem is that many wealthy people have been taught to accept a particular ideology without question. When you have an open mind, it's hard to deny the wisdom of the Founding Fathers limiting the franchise. The problem is, most people have been taught from their childhood to accept universal franchise unquestionably. --Double Edge 20:22, 22 May 2010 (EDT)

Your theory, while ostensibly using logic, doesn't match up with the data: wealthy areas tend to be very liberal. Atheists, who tend to be wealthy, want bigger government to squeeze out charity and religion.
If wealth were such a factor in political decisions, then why did the socialistic Obama raise far more money than the more conservative McCain? Studies show that church attendance is a better predictor of voting patterns than wealth.
The flat tax is opposed for valid reasons in addition to invalid ones. Taxing consumption can distort the free market and might increase the power of government over the free market. It would also further marginalize the states.--Andy Schlafly 20:51, 22 May 2010 (EDT)

Remember, wealth doesn't necessarily have to be the qualification. To respond to your points though, atheists are a political minority. Nobody in politics cares about winning the atheist's vote. On the McCain question, no one liked McCain enough to support him (he was a liberal trying to beat a liberal). You still haven't refuted many of my significant arguments. The tax system favors the poor and productive, and why would the poor vote against this? If the poor are so conservative then explain while they'll vote for a tax increase.You'd probably find that the middle class is the most reliably conservative group. It's true, the wealthy and elites are part of the problem, but they didn't do it alone. Why would the rich want to have a tax system where they have to pay more, or a government where their tax dollars along go to fund free government programs for the poor, it only redistributes their wealth.

But back to voter qualifications, rather than wealth, let's say military service is a qualification for voting. You have to serve as an officer for at least five years before you can vote. Voters would have intense physical training, meaning they wouldn't be adverse to suffering, they would have good education, and they would be selfless. This is simply a suggestion; I'm open to other ideas on how to limit the franchise. Universal franchise is a uniquely modern idea. Few republics of the past have accepted the idea: the greeks, the thirteen colonies. Finally, if mobocracy is so bad, then universal franchise is obviously bad. Mobocracy occurs whenever all citizens are allowed to influence the government, even if they do it through elected representatives. Remember, I never said that wealth was the qualification, or that only the wealthy should vote, but there should be some qualification. --Double Edge 09:03, 23 May 2010 (EDT)


Your "Best of the Public" is a terrific idea! I've watched CP for some time and I've been really impressed with the quality of conservative thinking here. I've made my first humble attempt at contributing to your great encyclopedia and I really hope you appreciate it. AlecD 18:08, 26 December 2009 (EST)

How about some more "humble" edits that are even better? Lincoln was a wealthy railroad attorney, a congressman in the 1840s, has a monument in his honor today, and is praised by every expert from here to Kalamazoo. Surely we can find better examples of non-experts today.--Andy Schlafly 18:20, 26 December 2009 (EST)
But he wasn't an expert in national politics when he became president! AlecD 18:47, 26 December 2009 (EST)
Your example raises more questions than it answers. Lincoln was more qualified than other potential and actual presidents, and it's unclear what you think Lincoln achieved that an expert would not have.--Andy Schlafly 19:07, 26 December 2009 (EST)
I wonder, though: would Sarah Palin qualify? Though she's certainly an established figure today, she worked her way up to the governorship of Alaska largely on her own merits, which in turn prompted McCain to select her as his running mate. --Benp 19:16, 26 December 2009 (EST)
Thank you for responding to my point, Mr Schlafly. Clearly you are more expert on this than I am and I stand corrected. I simply thought that the contrast between Presidents Lincoln and Buchanan was a striking example of the much less qualified (much less expert!) person becoming a much greater president. Does any other US president fit your concept of the "best of the public" achieving great things? Chester Arthur, maybe? A tax-cutting president who brought honesty back into national politics. AlecD 19:20, 26 December 2009 (EST)
"Alec", your sarcasm is silly, and your knowledge of history is not overwhelming. Lincoln had been on the national stage for years before being nominated and elected president. His contest in 1858 against Stephen Douglas, for example, attracted national interest and substantive debates. How about some substantive editing now?
Ben raises an interesting question about Palin. She does succeed against the best efforts of the experts. She did have an early impact on the health care bill, but perhaps it's too early to assess her achievements. I've got an open mind about that interesting pick, though, and perhaps it would make for good addition, at least on a tentative basis.--Andy Schlafly 19:29, 26 December 2009 (EST)
I cheerfully admit that, being British, my knowledge of USA history is not comprehensive. But it doesn't seem very polite to describe my description of Chester Arthur as sarcastic. I understood he rose from complete obscurity on the national political stage to become a much-respected president. Clearly I got that one wrong and I defer to your expertise. I shall try to think of some "Best of the Public" in a different field of achievement. AlecD 19:36, 26 December 2009 (EST)

Abraham Lincoln is an example of the parallel concept of "self-made man". He also courageously bucked a major trend (slavery) and made a lot of insightful observations on human nature and society. Let's not try to fit every round block into a square hole.

Several non-contributors have logged in merely to dispute the major point of the article, rather than help us contributors write it. They have muddied the waters, brought up irrelevant points and so on. Clearly liberals dislike the idea that individuals can contribute to society by marching to a different drummer. They want us all to dance to their tune, or to sit back passively while they establish a totalitarian dictatorship where they can call the shots.

If they could create a genuine paradise by taking away our freedom, I suppose I might be interested (in a theoretical way), but since the track record of the anti-freedom crowd has only and always been sheer misery, then they'll have to count me out. Liberals praise communism and socialism as progressive trends which naturally arise when the time is right, but real progress in the world is almost always made by outstanding individuals. Sometimes, these men are credentialed experts, but all too often the experts are the people who tell you that your discovery is impossible. (Like the farmer who, when told what a giraffe looked like, said, "There ain't no such animal.")

The best of the public are people who (despite their lack of credentials or position) have made important contributions to American life and often even world-wide benefit. We need to provide more support for these pioneers and whistle-blowers, rather than trying to destroy them. --Ed Poor Talk 13:51, 29 December 2009 (EST)

Stopping terrorists and other mass murderers[edit]

Yawn how many more examples do we need? Here, a passenger - not a "trained flight attendant" - subdued some fool trying to set an airplane seat on fire. And don't forget the Colin Ferguson case, where two stockbrokers talked it over before deciding to tackle the Long Island Railroad shooter. The supreme case is the 9/11 Pennsylvania downing of Flight 93 (see Todd Beamer).

Experts failed to stop the Middle East man who only wanted to "steer" (not take off or land) a jumbo jet, fearing lest the as investigators they would be charged with "racial profiling" for correctly identifying someone who fit the terrorist profile.

Then there are all the school shootings when a teacher (not a cop or security guard) runs to his car, gets his gun, and stops the killer with a shot - or the mere threat of a shot. --Ed Poor Talk 19:58, 26 December 2009 (EST)

This clearly proves why less gun control is needed. The more sane people with scatterguns in their trunk, the less likely someone is to try shooting ("Are ya feeling lucky?). Geoff PlourdeComplain! 20:02, 26 December 2009 (EST)


Isn't this an ambiguous, uncertain, open, indistinct, doubtful concept, like "public interest" or "common well-being"? Who decides what is "best of the public" anyway?

Happy 2010! --Evelyn 11:53, 27 December 2009 (EST)

Interesting comment, but isn't your suggested focus on "who decides" illustrative of the problem with experts? Why is it necessary for anyone to "decide"? No one "decides" for everyone else, for example, who wins the gold medal in the 100-meter dash at the Olympics, or whether 2+2=4.--Andy Schlafly 14:53, 27 December 2009 (EST)
Sorry I couldn't reply you earlier, but Mr. Poor prevented me from doing it. Anyway, it seems that those examples of "Best of the public" demonstrate that "experts" are not necessary, which would be a great mistake. As an "approach to education, scholarship, and biblical translation", as you boldly stated, the best of the public is still a very open concept, and ultimately does it work only after it has been validated by everybody, or what? --EvelynM 21:25, 27 December 2009 (EST)

Andy makes a good point here, and this certainly works for matters of mathematical certainty, but what about those more subjective instances? Music, especially, comes to mind as a field in which no one can say objectively what the "best" is, nor is "expert" even well-defined in the field of popular music. What makes The Beatles experts but not Don McLean? I believe both were largely self-taught, and neither had extensive training in performance or composition at institutions such as Julliard. The Beatles were more successful, but certainly success does not equate to expert or the idea of best of the public is a paradox. I think Elvis is a better example of an expert, as most of his hits were written by other professional/expert songwriters, and the same goes for much of the pop music of today. DanL 10:23, 28 December 2009 (EST)


The definition of "Best of the public" is currently scattered along the length of the article. Many of the supporting examples are given before the term has been explained, and the reader must piece it together for himself over the course of reading the full page. If it's alright with others here, I'm going to try to attempt a clear definition of the term to put in the opening paragraph. Eoinc 13:32, 14 January 2010 (EST)

Please do ... as long as it does not dilute the point.--Andy Schlafly 17:13, 14 January 2010 (EST)

Arthur Ashe[edit]

Perhaps Arthur Ashe's stunning upset victory to win Wimbledon should be included next.--Andy Schlafly 09:04, 23 July 2010 (EDT)

Didn't he also receive a presidential medal of freedom? I may be thinking of someone else, but if so, the top civilian award might stand for something too. Tyler Zoran Talk 09:10, 23 July 2010 (EDT)
Looks like it was awarded posthumously. I don't know too much about him since I was pretty young in '93, but so far he has my vote. (references for the medal: [5][6] )Tyler Zoran Talk 09:13, 23 July 2010 (EDT)

"The ark was built by amateurs, but professionals built the Titanic”[edit]

The header above is a famous quote that seems to epitomize the point of this article. I don't know who to attribute the quote to, and I'm not sure how to incorporate it into this encyclopedic article, so I thought I'd mention it here. --AaronT 23:58, 11 May 2011 (EDT)

Personally speaking...[edit]

I find that technical expertise trumps folk wisdom and nickel know-how a lot of the time. I pay a mechanic to fix my car, even though my friends and I hanging around for a couple of hours could do an adequate job, and I go to a doctor when I'm under the weather, even though I know some remedies for coughs and colds. The doctor and the mechanic have spent years learning their trade; I've got nothing on that.

Do you think this contradicts anything in best of the public?--Andy Schlafly 16:32, 2 June 2011 (EDT)

Clarence Thomas quote[edit]

The Thomas quote is being misunderstood in the context of this article - he's clearly saying that he believes the 'bloggers' who complain about his clerks are a little self-important - 'jumped-up' as it were, and not as well informed or educated as his clerks. His "that's the attitude you're dealing with" comment is obviously referring to the fact that their bragging about their supposed superiority annoys him, and he doesn't think that the 'bloggers' know more than his clerks. I'm new here so I didn't want to just take it out without discussion. GennaS 13:30, 14 June 2011 (EDT)

Common Law[edit]

I deleted Common Law as an example because the Common Law was created by experts-judges and attorneys who received formal training in the subject, passed some sort of licensing exam, had their decisions were reviewed by peers, who were similarly trained, etc. Lawstudent 20:33, 20 June 2011 (EDT)

Nearly all of the common law developed before there was any formal legal training or licensing exams. Many of the attorneys and judges were simply ordinary people drawn to that field.--Andy Schlafly 21:27, 20 June 2011 (EDT)

Further questions on experts[edit]

I'm sorry if some of this is covered above, but I haven't read through all of the comments, as there's an awful lot of them. I have a question about what constitues an expert, especially in the sports section. Don Larsen, a starting pitcher for the Yankees in the World Series, seems like as much of an expert as one can get in that field. Sure, he's not as well known as Sandy Koufax or Cy Young, but he's hardly an amateur. Likewise Tom Brady. Yeah, he was second string, as most quarterbacks are in their early careers, and if experts "undergo highly specialized training, and in the process, become immersed in a sub-culture of like experts" then I can't see how playing football for a major college team doesn't qualify. Just because he wasn't a star from the get-go like Peyton Manning was, I don't see how his training and career in the NFL make him much different than any other player, except that his talents weren't recognized early on. If they had been, would that have somehow made him an expert? Above Einstein was dismissed because it was "potentially confusing because Albert Einstein is so widely publicized as the quintessential expert today. Someone reading the entry might think, "If Einstein isn't an example of an expert, then who would be?"" I think the same could be said for Tom Brady today. The Dallas Mavericks too. They may not have had as well known players as the Lakers, but these are guys who had been playing professional basketball for years, earning millions of dollars doing so, and surely basketball had been the focus of most of their efforts in college. I'm not sure simply being an underdog can necessarily make one the best of the public rather than an expert, especially when their backgrounds are nearly identical. The musician section is also somewhat confusing. I don't see what sets some of these one hit wonders apart from other musicians in their expertise. If they had no formal musical training then I guess that would qualify them, but that's true of many (perhaps most) contemporary popular musicians. Lennon and McCartney had little, if any, formal training, they just had the basic talent to write and perform popular music. The only bands or musicians that would seem to fit the article's definition of "expert" would be ones who attended Julliard or something, or at least studied music performance or composition at some higher level. Outside of classical music, that's probably very few in this day and age, and I don't see what warrants a mention of someone like Johnny Nash over just about any other more successful musicians. AngusT 14:08, 3 March 2012 (EST)

Is this really the definition?[edit]

I was reading this article when this line in the intro jumped out at me: ""Best of Public" means, in the most straightforward sense, someone who is conservative and disagrees with most experts on a particular subject." Is that really the most basic definition of "best of the public"? --JoshuaB 00:27, 7 March 2012 (EST)

Chicago Marathon[edit]

I am not clear how the Chicago Marathon is in keeping with the spirit of this article. That Marathon is managed and promoted by professional experts. They solicit sponsorship that funds prize money and travel expenses paid to invited elite runners that come from around the world (mostly from East Africa). It has been a long time since American runners have won that race. Perhaps a better example might be the Marine Corps Marathon which refuses to pay prize money, but still attracts good winning times. Wschact 09:01, 8 July 2012 (EDT)

Matt Cassel[edit]

You said that Matt Cassel is a best of the public example. However, many evidence state otherwise. Win- loss record for Cassel is 33-37, a pct of 0.471. One third of his wins came with the Patriots indicating that he cannot function well in a system other than New England. When you adjust his numbers to exclude Patriots' games, his record is 22- 32, a disappointing figure. Plus, Bill Belichik who coaches the Patriots is regarded as an elite coach and is in the top 10 of all time coaches by wins- so was it Cassel or Belichik that helped the Patriots go 11-5 in 2008 season. Clearly, it was Belichik. On the Kansas City Chiefs, he did not fare as well. He was inefficient at games and many Chiefs fans hated him. Sure he got to the Pro Bowl, but many horrible players, like Braylon Edwards, Cato June, Stephan Alexander, Elvis Grabac and Derek Anderson, have been in the Pro Bowl. During part of the 2012 season, he and the Chiefs were only 2-14. Is that a "best of the public" quarterback. Subsequently, he got traded to the Minnesota Vikings. Cassel is continuously not a good player and should not be on this list.

Richard Dawkins - Not the best of the public[edit]

The new atheist and evolutionist Richard Dawkins thought he could thumb his nose at the medical experts and embroil himself in controversy at Twitter against the advice of his doctors, but he was proved wrong (see: Richard Dawkins and medical science). Unlike members of the best of the public, Dawkins had no empirical support to back up his position.

Second, Dawkins flouted the advice of the Bible and did not love his wife like Christ loved the church. He also ignored the Apostle Paul's advice about love given in 1 Corinthians 13:4-13. In addition, Dawkins ignored the advice of relationship columnists around the world and decided he would do relationships his way - despite the fact that many of these columnists were ladies and therefore experts at relationships! Three failed marriages later and Dawkins is still not the best of the public when it comes to marriage. Conservative (talk) 06:05, 20 July 2016 (EDT)

A-ha "never charting again for singles, albums, or videos"[edit]

According to this "Best of the public" article:

"A-ha produced the ground-breaking video and song 'Take On Me', despite never charting again for singles, albums, or videos."

What the? This is fake history found on Wikipedia that totally contradicts the history in a sub-article.

This Norwegian band is famous for their radio songs and music albums in Europe, but even then they had three other songs besides "Take on Me" that came in the top 120 places of the list of most popular songs in the United States for at least one week and sometimes for even more than that:

1985, "The Sun Always Shines on TV", 20th most popular song in the United States
1986, "Cry Wolf", 50th most popular song in the United States
1993, "Dark Is the Night for All", 111th most popular song in the United States

VargasMilan (talk) Thursday, 23:51, 9 May 2019 (EDT