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  • Writer's pictureSam Wilks

The Danger of Ignoring Expertise in Policymaking: Analyzing instances where the dismissal of expert advice has led to ineffective or harmful policy decisions.

The interplay between expertise and policymaking is a delicate balance, crucial for the formulation of effective and beneficial public policies. The disregard of industry expertise in favour of bureaucratic decision-making and the opinions of inexperienced academics has, in numerous instances, led to policies that are at best ineffective and at worst harmful. This article explores the ramifications of sidelining seasoned professionals in policy formulation.

The notion that expertise should guide policymaking is not new. Philosophers, economists, psychologists, security professionals, experts, and trainers have long argued that informed decisions require a deep understanding of the subject matter, something that industry experts are uniquely positioned to provide. Their years of experience, nuanced understanding of complex systems, and firsthand knowledge of industry challenges afford them a perspective that is invaluable in crafting policies that are both effective and adaptable.

In Australia, the response to certain public health crises provides a stark illustration of the dangers inherent in ignoring this expertise. The management of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, saw an unprecedented level of government intervention in public health, economic activity, and personal liberties. While some educational measures were undoubtedly necessary to kerb the spread of the virus, the reliance on a narrow set of academic models and the underutilization of industry experts in fields such as epidemiology, public health, economics, and mental health led to policies that completely missed the mark, in short, they killed thousands of people.

One poignant example is the mass lockdown strategy implemented across various states and territories, including the Northern Territory. These measures, informed by theoretical models rather than real-world data and expertise, had significant unintended consequences. Businesses shuttered, mental health crises surged, and the economic fallout was severe. The human cost is still rising, with Australia experiencing over 60,000 excess deaths in the following two years after forced experimental drug regimes and a massive increase in associated miscarriages. Critics argue that a more nuanced approach, informed by a broader range of expertise, including renowned epidemiologists, economists, and mental health professionals, could have mitigated these outcomes. When compared to Sweden, Africa, and US states that refused to impose the same methods, the death rates with COVID were dramatically lower, and the excess deaths have been negligible.

The concept of iatrogenesis, typically applied within the medical field to describe health complications caused by medical intervention, finds a parallel in policy-induced harms. The "mass iatrogenic" effect referred to in the Australian context encompasses not only the direct health impacts of the associated experimental remedies for COVID-19 but also the indirect consequences of government interventions. These include increased suicide rates, delayed cancer diagnoses due to diverted healthcare resources, and a rise in domestic violence incidents during lockdowns. Industry experts in healthcare, security services, and social services had raised concerns about these potential outcomes early on, but their voices were often drowned out in the rush to implement sweeping measures. I spent several hours attempting to explain "the science" to elected officials who took the advice of bureaucrats, which led to the manslaughter of thousands.

The reliance on inexperienced academics and bureaucrats at the expense of seasoned industry professionals can be attributed to several factors. There is a tendency within government circles to favour theoretical knowledge over practical experience, perhaps due to the perceived objectivity and rigour of academic research. However, this ignores the fact that real-world problems are intricate and multifaceted, necessitating solutions that draw from both theory and practise.

Moreover, the dismissal of industry expertise can also be seen as a manifestation of a broader societal trend towards the devaluation of experience and the elevation of credentialism. This trend is dangerous, as it sidelines the very individuals whose insights are most critical in navigating the intricate realities of policymaking. The notion that seasoned professionals frequently transition into academic roles to impart their wisdom is more folklore than reality. In truth, many experts devote considerable portions of their careers to countering the myriad failures spawned by academics and bureaucrats, whose theoretical musings often overlook the real-world ramifications. As a specialist and instructor within my domain, I find myself perpetually in conflict with academicians. They concoct various hazardous theories, leaving me with the burdensome task of dissecting these ideas and demonstrating their perilous consequences beyond the academic bubble.

The Northern Territory, with its unique demographic, geographical, and health challenges, offers specific instances where the input of local experts could have significantly improved policy outcomes. For example, the management of remote Indigenous communities during the pandemic, including the deployment of health resources and the implementation of travel restrictions, could have benefited from the insights of local healthcare workers and Indigenous leaders. Their in-depth understanding of community dynamics, health infrastructure, and cultural sensitivities would have been invaluable in crafting policies that were both effective and culturally appropriate. Instead, they leant heavily on the counsel of career bureaucrats, whose track records are marred by a litany of failures, strife, and elevated mortality rates in every sector, community, and role they've touched. One can only marvel at the comfort and security afforded by a bureaucratic position, where accountability and consequences seem to be remarkably absent.

The importance of industry expertise in policymaking cannot be overstated. The consequences of ignoring this expertise are evident in the suboptimal, and sometimes harmful, policies that emerge from such oversight. The Australian experience during the COVID-19 pandemic underscores the need for a more inclusive approach to policymaking—one that values the practical insights of industry professionals alongside the theoretical contributions of academics. As society grapples with complex challenges, the wisdom of experience must be recognised as a cornerstone of effective governance.  From the author.

 The opinions and statements are those of Sam Wilks and do not necessarily represent whom Sam Consults or contracts to. Sam Wilks is a skilled and experienced Security Consultant with almost 3 decades of expertise in the fields of Real estate, Security, and the hospitality/gaming industry. His knowledge and practical experience have made him a valuable asset to many organizations looking to enhance their security measures and provide a safe and secure environment for their clients and staff.

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