New Fox News Op-ed: Politicians as Experts

My new Fox News piece starts off like this:

Politicians pose as the ultimate experts. They may never have worked in an industry or studied an issue before, but after few months of time on a topic they know everything: the types of cars that should be produced, the science of global warming, and how much doctors should charge for different types of surgery.

Few in congress even have backgrounds that are closely related to some of the issues covered by government. Just take the Senate this year, where almost half, 45, are attorneys. Only one doctor, four farmers, 13 business people, seven teachers, four professors (all law and three are listed as just adjuncts), and virtually everyone else lists their past experience as professional politician. No members of the Senate are scientists or economists. One member of the Senate played professional sports and another owned a professional sports team.

A president and members of Congress deal with thousands of complicated topics each year. But is there anything politicians consider anything off limits?

Apparently not. Take President-elect Barack Obama’s foray last week into how college football should be run. Obama told CBS’s 60 Minutes:

"I think any sensible person would say that, if you've got a bunch of teams who play throughout the season and many of them have one loss or two losses, there's no clear, decisive winner, that we should be creating a playoff system. Eight teams, that would be three rounds to determine a national champion. It would -- it would add three extra weeks to the season. You could trim back on the regular season. I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this. So I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."
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Blogger The Right Guy said...

May be it has to do with Obama's personality (http://www.faithfreedom.org/obama.html). I wouldn't cast all politicians in this light, but you have to wonder about people that want power.

11/24/2008 7:48 AM  
Blogger md22mdrx said...

What do you do Mr. Lott ... just sit around and try to come up with things to bash Obama on? How is this relevant to any of our priorities as Americans? Do you REALLY THINK Obama will push for a college football playoff when in office when there is so much going on that's more important? Maybe if you stopped the bashing, you'd actually write something relevant and bring light to an ACTUAL ISSUE that's important to Americans.

11/24/2008 2:35 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

I don't think Obama understands just what he things he's messing with. Stealing the election with the help of the MSM was one thing. However, if he starts messing with SEC football, all bets are off. He'll have an open revolt in the South that'll make that "Recent Unpleasantness With The North" look like a picnic.

11/24/2008 2:55 PM  
Blogger CND FOX said...

John, All the man did was answer a question posed to him by a member of the press. I am sure he has subjective feelings about this topic, just like every sports fan in America. Where your diatribe comes off, I'm not sure. Isn't this a strange way to show you do not like him?

11/24/2008 3:43 PM  
Blogger Adeyemo said...

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. What is wrong with Obama suggesting a playoff system for the NCAA football? If you know what you are writing about, you would find out that Obama is right again. Who is #1 and #2 after Oklahoma routed the previous #2 and you have Utah and Boise States with no losses. Obama is right again and you are too jealous or stupid to realize this.

11/24/2008 3:44 PM  
Blogger jfrick said...

I love the comment about "viable plan". Congress, as we all know, is expert at proper planning. Look at how well they have planned and managed mortgages, one of the most boring businesses around.

11/24/2008 4:34 PM  
Blogger Martin G. Schalz said...

Have I missed something here, or was this not a 'Blog' concerning the qualifications of those whom we elect to perform a job?

It's painfully obvious that those in Congress haven't a clue one when it comes to the problems they make worse through sheer ignorance. Why in the heck do we keep them in their jobs? To put it another way, I wouldn't hire a carpenter to rebuild the engine in my vehicle. So why do we hire these fools to do a job they are not qualified for?

The fact of the matter is that Politicians exhibit in massive quantities, 'The arrogance of ignorance', and we the voters continue to buy into that.

BHO's football comments simply underline Dr. Lott's observations of the arrogance of elected officials. Nothing more, nothing less. I fail to see this as an direct attack on BHO, but just as another fine example of what we face in the future.

11/24/2008 4:36 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear CND FOX and Adeyemo:

Obama wasn't just suggesting a playoff system.

"So I'm going to throw my weight around a little bit. I think it's the right thing to do."

It also bothers me that he belittles those who disagree with him:

"I think any sensible person would say ... I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this."

Politicians should be advised that they aren't the brightest people in the world. They seem to think that they know how to run everything. Making those two points were what I was trying to get across in the piece.

Dear md22mdrx:

Read Obama's quote and explain to me why you think that he really doesn't want to put pressure on colleges to do what he wants. Explain to me why his language isn't belittling those on the otherside of this issue. I also don't think that the 60 Minutes reporter would have brought up the question if Obama hadn't given him some indication that he wanted to be asked the question.

11/24/2008 5:24 PM  
Blogger mythosmint said...

you don't think that maybe he was joking when he said this?

11/24/2008 5:43 PM  
Blogger Conor said...


Your line of reasoning frightens me. If politicians were to listen to you, slavery would still be going strong, big tobacco would be marketing to children, and steroids would still be in baseball. I mean, what did Abe Lincoln know about slavery? He never managed a cotton farm or worked in textiles. Baseball was happy to have home run hitters during the steroid era, and they made a lot of money off of it. Was it ethical? Nobody in congress ever played pro baseball after all, so what the hell do they know? These institutions need oversight. They are not altruistic as you seem to claim. The BCS was structured for one reason; to make BCS schools a boatload of money. I am not here to argue that the BCS does not make money for the major conferences. However, this system is illegal, unfair and unethical to the mid-major non-BCS schools that are being screwed out of millions under the current system. Additionally, with the amount of tax exemptions and aid BCS schools are receiving, the federal government has not only the right, but the obligation to get involved.

You posed the question: “But would those at the top not listen to fans, students, and alumni?” Trust me, the people have spoken already... and their plight is falling on deaf ears. Obama is not wrong about the majority of college football fans holding this opinion. Look at any poll or survey that has ever been taken on the subject.

11/24/2008 5:48 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear mythosmint:

I have watched his comments on TV and I have read the text of the comments. If there is a joke, please point to it. Do you think that he is joking when he said this: "I think any sensible person would say ... I don't know any serious fan of college football who has disagreed with me on this"?

Dear Conor:

Slavery? Possibly you read different history books than I did, but the government's action made slavery legal. The government enforced the ownership by some people of others. This is the opposite of what I was talking about. I am not talking about nongovernmental actions.

11/24/2008 6:06 PM  
Blogger Danny said...

The point is that it is not an area that Obama should be "throwing his weight around". I'm sorry if you can't accept criticism of "The One", but it's a legitimate criticism.


11/24/2008 6:21 PM  
Blogger Conor said...

Actually, the courts are what made slavery legal, but regardless, it existed as an unregulated institution far before a Virginia court put down their stamp of approval. I was referring specifically to Abe Lincoln’s "Emancipation Proclamation” which should definitely be considered a “government action.” I will spare you the history lesson because I am not so arrogant to think that you need one. However, I will take the fact that you did not touch on 98% of my post or the basic point I was trying to make as evidence that you have changed your mind and abandoned your position.

“…the hottest place in hell is reserved for those who in times of great moral crisis, strive to maintain their neutrality”

11/24/2008 6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's easy to make a decision about somthing one knows nothing about!
That seems to fir our next prez.

11/24/2008 6:53 PM  
Blogger be603 said...

Hubris. 4 years coming atcha

11/24/2008 9:55 PM  
Blogger LB said...

"Politicians should be advised that they aren't the brightest people in the world. They seem to think that they know how to run everything. Making those two points were what I was trying to get across in the piece."

When did you study psychoanalysis I thought your were an economists?

11/24/2008 11:41 PM  
Blogger John Lott said...

Dear LB:

Possibly you haven't studied any economics. But one of the major points about economics is how incredibly difficult it is for some central authority to have all the information to make decisions. This is the whole importance of prices. A politician simply isn't capable of knowing everything that they have to know to make many different decisions.

11/25/2008 1:12 AM  
Blogger Bill Gamble said...

Just remember that uness it is a NEW stock offering, you are not actually investing in a company when you buy shares, you are engaging in pari-mutuel betting that you can pick winners and losers better than the average investor. If every person in the country bought 100 share of stock in GM today, the stock might double, but GM would not have any more cash unless it sold some of the stock the corporaton owns (if it has any. They shouldn't; they should have sold it six months ago when it was still worth something, and they would have the cash to weather this storm).


11/25/2008 10:26 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

you must be a Notre Dame fan

11/25/2008 10:38 AM  
Blogger Justin Murray, CFO said...

Conor needs to read history beyond the elementary school textbooks. The Emancipation Proclamation only targeted Confederate states that did not return to the Union by January 1, 1863. It did not outlaw slavery in Northern states, border states or Confederate states already under Union control. Lincoln never pushed for the abolishment of slavery until AFTER the Confederacy lost the war. It was purely a punishment, not out of some kindness in his heart. Besides, slavery was on a sharp decline prior to the Civil War and was on track to end itself, the Federal intervention on the matter caused the problems.

11/25/2008 10:56 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Pretty amazing...John seems to think that none of these politicians have people on their staff qualified to make opinions. Somewhere down the line, I'll bet there's someone who was the best something in the state of wherever and he's on the Senator's staff because his expertise might be called upon. With the size of government today I'll bet they've got pretty much every eventuality covered. There are a lot of morons in federal government, but sprinkled here and there are some of our nations best and brightest. Worship of the almighty dollar hasn't turned them all away.

11/25/2008 6:53 PM  
Blogger The Right Guy said...

Let us not forget that some states seceded because of the threat of the end of slavery. This from Mississippi's declaration of secession:

From Mississippi's declaration of secession:

"Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin."

11/25/2008 10:47 PM  

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