"There's A Global Riot Against Psuedo-Experts" Nassim Taleb Exclaims "This Is Not About Fascism"

Tyler Durden's picture

Submitted by Suhasini Haidar via TheHindu.com,

Economist-mathematician Nassim Nicholas Taleb contends that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts

After predicting the 2008 economic crisis, the Brexit vote, the U.S. presidential election and other events correctly, Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of the Incerto series on global uncertainties, which includes The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable, is seen as something of a maverick and an oracle. Equally, the economist-mathematician has been criticised for advocating a “dumbing down” of the economic system, and his reasoning for U.S. President Donald Trump and global populist movements. In an interview in Jaipur, Taleb explains why he thinks the world is seeing a “global riot against pseudo-experts”.

I’d like to start by asking about your next book, Skin in the Game, the fifth of the Incerto series. You do something unusual with your books: before you launch, you put chapters out on your website. Why is that?

Putting my work online motivates me to go deeper into a subject. I put it online and it gives some structure to my thought. The only way to judge a book is by something called the Lindy effect, and that is its survival. My books have survived. I noticed that The Black Swan did well because it was picked up early online, long before the launch. I also prefer social media to interviews in the mainstream media as many journalists don’t do their research, and ‘zeitgeist’ updates [Top Ten lists] pass for journalism.

The media is not one organisation or a monolithic entity.

Well, I’m talking about the United States where I get more credible news from the social media than the mainstream media. But I am very impressed with the Indian media that seems to present both sides of the story. In the U.S., you only get either the official, bureaucratic or the academic side of the story.

In Skin in the Game, you seem to build on theories from The Black Swan that give a sense of foreboding about the world economy. Do you see another crisis coming?

Oh, absolutely! The last crisis [2008] hasn’t ended yet because they just delayed it. [Barack] Obama is an actor. He looks good, he raises good children, he is respectable. But he didn’t fix the economic system, he put novocaine [local anaesthetic] in the system. He delayed the problem by working with the bankers whom he should have prosecuted. And now we have double the deficit, adjusted for GDP, to create six million jobs, with a massive debt and the system isn’t cured. We retained zero interest rates, and that hasn’t helped. Basically we shifted the problem from the private corporates to the government in the U.S. So, the system remains very fragile.

You say Obama put novocaine in the system. How will the Trump administration be able to address this?

Of course. The whole mandate he got was because he understood the economic problems. People don’t realise that Obama created inequalities when he distorted the system. You can only get rich if you have assets. What Trump is doing is put some kind of business sense in the system. You don’t have to be a genius to see what’s wrong. Instead of Trump being elected, if you went to the local souk [bazaar] in Aleppo and brought one of the retail shop owners, he would do the same thing Trump is doing. Like making a call to Boeing and asking why are we paying so much.

You’re seen as something of an oracle, given that you saw the 2008 economic crash coming, you predicted the Brexit vote, the outcome of the Syrian crisis. You said the Islamic State would benefit if Bashar al-Assad was pushed out and you predicted Trump’s win. How do you explain it?

Not the Islamic State, but al-Qaeda at the time, and I said the U.S. administration was helping fund them. See, you have to have courage to say things others don’t. I was lucky financially in life, that I didn’t need to work for a living and can spend all my time thinking. When Trump was running for election, I said what he says makes sense to a grocery store owner. Because the grocery guy can say Trump is wrong because he can see where he is wrong. But with Obama, he can’t understand what he’s saying, so the grocery man doesn’t know where he is wrong.

Is it a choice between dumbing down versus over-intellectualisation, then?

Exactly. Trump never ran for archbishop, so you never saw anything in his behaviour that was saintly, and that was fine. Whereas Obama behaved like the Archbishop of Canterbury, and was going to do good but people didn’t feel their lives were better. As I said, if it was a shopkeeper from Aleppo, or a grocery store owner in Mumbai, people would have liked them as much as Trump. What he says makes common sense, asking why are we paying so much for this rubbish or why do we need these complex taxes, or why do we want lobbyists. You can call Trump’s plain-speaking what you like. But the way intellectuals treat people who don’t agree with them isn’t good either. I remember I had an academic friend who supported Brexit, and he said he knew what it meant to be a leper in the U.K. It was the same with supporting Trump in the U.S.

But there were valid reasons for people to be worried about Trump too.

Well, if you’re a businessman, for example, what Trump said didn’t bother you. The intellectual class of no more than 2,00,000 people in the U.S. don’t represent everyone upset with Trump. The real problem is the ‘faux-expert problem’, one who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and assumes he knows what people think. An electrician doesn’t have that problem.

Is the election of Trump part of a global phenomena? You have commented on the similarity to the election of Narendra Modi in India.

Well, with Trump, Modi, Brexit, and now France, there are some similar problems in those countries. What you are hearing is people getting fed up with the ruling class. This is not fascism. It has nothing to do with fascism. It has to do with the faux-experts problem and a world with too many experts. If we had a different elite, we may not see the same problem.

There are other similarities, to quote from studies of populist movements worldwide: these leaders are majoritarian, they build on resentment, they use social media for direct access to their voters, and they can take radical decisions.

I often say that a mathematician thinks in numbers, a lawyer in laws, and an idiot thinks in words. These words don’t amount to anything. I think you have to draw the conclusion that there is a global riot against pseudo-experts. I saw it with Brexit, and Nigel Farage [leader of the U.K. Independence Party], who was a trader for 15 years, said the problem with the government was that none of them had ever had a proper job. Being a bureaucrat is not a proper job.

As a businessperson, you have a point about experts and pseudo-experts who you say are ‘left-wing’. How do you explain the other parts to the phenomenon that aren’t economic: the xenophobia, Islamophobia, misogyny, etc.?

I don’t understand how a left-wing person can defend Salafism, or religious extremism. In a democracy, you can allow people to have any view, but they can’t come with a message to destroy democracy. Why should people who come to the West come with a message to finish the West? This is where the discourse goes haywire. So in Yemen, the [Saudi] intervention is good, but the intervention [by Russia] in Aleppo shouldn’t be allowed. I don’t think Trump was racist when he said Mexican criminals shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S.; he was targeting criminals. If you are Naziphobic, you are not against Germans. If I oppose Salafism, I am not an Islamophobe. Obama also deported Mexicans and refused to accept immigrants.

Is anti-globalisation a part of this sentiment?

I am not anti-globalisation, but I am against big global corporations. One of the reasons is what they cost. Today, every project sees cost overruns because these projects have to factor in global risks as well. In nature there is an ‘island effect’. The number of species on an island drops significantly when you go to the mainland. Similarly, when you open up your small economies, you lose some of your ethnicity or diversity. Artisans are being killed by globalisation. Think of the effect on so many artists who have been put out of work while people are buying wrinkle-free shirts and cheap mobile phones. I’m a localist. The problem is globalisation comes through large global corporates that are predatory, and so we want to counter its ill-effects.

Where do you see the world moving now? Further right, or will it revert to the centre?

I don’t think it will go left or right, and I don’t know about the short term. But I think in the long term, the world can only survive if it lives like nature does. Many smaller units of governance, and a collection of super islands with some separation, quick decision-making, and visible implementation. Lots of Switzerlands, that’s what we need. What we need is not leaders, we don’t need them. We just need someone at the top who doesn’t mess the system up.


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dude duderson's picture

one of my favorite authors. well presented and as objective as we can hope for these daze

roadhazard's picture

And that's not even counting the internet experts.



so are the, "experts" the ones you agree with and the, "pseudo experts" the ones you don't...

VWAndy's picture

 Real experts should be able to answer a good question or two well. Least thats how I see it.

Kickaha's picture

People who acquire expertise would prefer to cash in on it, if possible.  People who are willng to pay experts for their opinions usually are looking for a way to explain themselves out of a tight situation.

For one simple example, if a guy punches you in the faces and lifts your wallet out of your pocket, then gets arrested and charged with robbery, his lawyer seeks out an expert to explain that this guy never really intented on punching you in the face and taking your wallet, but was, instead temporarily insane and not aware of what he was doing when your nose interrupted the path of his fist, and when he used the dollars from your wallet to buy himself some cocaine and a couple of skanks for the night.

Similarly, if you are a central banker, you cloak yourself in the mantle of a learned expert and patiently explain that money is not intended to be a store of value and negative interest rates are a useful policy tool to stimulate spending and create inflation.  Because you have multiple degrees and decades of banking experience, people nod their heads in agreement, making no attempt to analyze what was said, because overall, the system is very complicated and best left to experts.

Talib is in the ballpark, but he has failed to boil this situation down to its essence.  Experts complicate all systems because it is their self-interest to do so.  Complicated systems defy common sense.  They end up being explained by acolytes of that complex system in terms and phrases that have their own special meanings known only to those with expertise and are designed to render their publications unreadable by anybody not possessed of the same degree of knowledge in that particular field of endeavor.  Make systems complex enough and so thoroughly incomprehensible to the common man that he has no hope of truly understanding it, and the experts who built that complexity into a particular system have created job security and a large salary for themselves.

It probably all starts out with the hubris present only in the minds of men who know little but think they know all.  They take a simple solution (If we are in debt, the solution is to pay off the debts) and suggests a less painful alternative that typically requires setting up some sort of complex and arcane system only they are fit to understand and implement.  When that system fails, their solution is to add another layer of complexity to it. After that, it is wash, rinse, repeat, over and over again, because you put yourself out of work if you admit failure and go back to the simple and direct solution.  Politicians, in the very broadest sense of that term, love experts.  They can make it sound like there are universal benefits flowing from a complex system that, in fact, benefits only the politician or his masters.

What has happened now politically is that people, with their own eyes, are witnessing massive system failure around the world, and the experts to whom they naively entrusted their collective fates decades ago are suggesting that the solution is another incomprehensible layer of complexity and new institutions to implement it.  The MSM is shouting at us to stand down and let the experts handle everything, because they know the systems they have gerrymandered together and are the best choice to run and control them, lest it all comes crashing down upon all of us.  The MSM and all of those experts keep telling us that things are awesome due to their genius and the systems they have installed, and that anybody who questions their narrative is a grave danger to the nation.  

The bottom line is that they are telling us not to believe our lying eyes when we look around and see our nation swirling down the toilet. After all, they are the experts who really should know best, or so we have been told all of our lives  A lot of people are now choosing to believe their eyes, which includes seeing the experts as the stupid, venal and greedy whores they really are, and to see their salvation and only hope in the tearing down of all those complex systems that have ruined their lives. 


VWAndy's picture

 Yep I get the screwed up logic people use to mislead others. Why we fall for it is the part that drives me nuts.

galant's picture


On experts, I like Albert Einstein:

If you cannot explain it to a 6-year-old, you don't really understand it.

runnymede's picture

Excellent post my friend. 

If you have not read Albert J. Nock 'Our enemy the State', consider doing so. 


Stan Smith's picture

I think he's right on in most of his points.    I'd also I add, that its succinct to note that his number of roughly 2 million "experts" sounds about right.   At least when you consider most of them as pseudo experts.   What isnt wrong is those 2 million are essentially fucking it up for the rest of us.

runnymede's picture

Very astute observation about experts. At best they are credentialed specialists who are for rent to whoever pays to rent their credentials to give the appearance of legitimacy to their interests/ agenda.

The difference between training and education is lost on most. The State has been very efficient at blurring that line. They can only train and condition; they cannot educate.  It is contrary to the state's interest to educate. 

SeekingNuNormal's picture

yep, basically mercenaries for the global elite

jamesmmu's picture

Under President Obama Political Correctness Kept Americans Quiet - President Trump Asks Americans To Speak Up - It Is Now Or Never!


Mimir's picture

But only of you wear a tie and women are dressed like women - if not shut up !

Consuelo's picture



"Obama is an actor. He looks good, he raises good children, he is respectable."

Um - I think the word he was looking for there was:

'rents' good children...

steelrules's picture

Just another fkn expert that dosen't know what's really going on. 

pcrs's picture

Pseudo is spelled with EU. That is not a coincidene

Mimir's picture

For all people with little knowledge and education, apart from what comes from personal experiences, "experts" are always threatening. They tell you what you don't know. They are in fact mostly well paid for doing exactly that.

"False expert" are thrown out of the room.

GreatUncle's picture

Nope, false expert Krugmann, that white elephant is still in the room and allows the politicians to rob us more.

Eradicating Krugman, the politician no longer able to sell the con as easy.

Grandad Grumps's picture

A global revolt against self-serving condescending pricks...JMHO.

Shakespeare, Plato, Socrates, Thomas Paine etc. thought in words. Were they idiots?

Nukerella's picture

I thought that was a bit weird too. Who above the age of 2 thinks in anything else but words? Listen to your mind, it's always yammering.

runnymede's picture

Noticed that too. Guy's made a living on words. Thoughts are abstract.  Words are themselves abstracts.

Like any highly intelligent person, Mr Taleb is spot-on with much of what he discusses, but there's also some sloppiness. And even a couple crazy ideas. 

Like when he stays he is not against globalization just global corporations. How exactly does that work? 

I've read a lot of his stuff and overall it's worth the price and effort.

runnymede's picture

And then they mind-melded with each other?

Articulation demonstrates mastery and understanding of ideas.

What a stupid post.

GreatUncle's picture

Too many entitled experts who get paid to propose or suggest a point of view.

All great for corrupt politicians who then quote that point of view as fact to hammer the population even more.

SHADEWELL's picture

Paid Expert = CUNT


Bondo's picture

google has changed the definition of fascism- they say a fascist is right-wing

google is fake news

sinbad2's picture

OK I'll bite, so the Oxford dictionary, Websters, Cambridge etc all got it wrong, so please enlighten us with your correct definition.

Ace006's picture

That asinine characterization will never die. Dishonest in Google's case.

VWAndy's picture

 Intellectual sloth is one thing that drives me nuts. People fall for some of the most silliest stuff it hurts. As long as it pets their dogma/strokes the ego they will take the bait.

 Anything to avoid the truth I guess.

Capt Kirk's picture

Great read, highly recommended.  Makes you think.

dogster's picture

Evidently, though, Taleb is not courageous enough to discuss the Jew problem.  Jews thrive on chaos.  That is all they are good for.

squid's picture

He did in a round about way.

Just whom do you think makes up a good portion of that 2,000,000 of?



copernicuson's picture

Better yet, is that there really are no such things as experts.  People really can only take action about things that they directly experience.  Over centuries culture, religion, diet develop from what worked, not because of expert opinion.  Democratic Republic is superior because more points of view are incorporated over so called experts.  Checks and balances slow the process down, which is a good thing, because so called experts are always trying to game the system by trying to change the culture from something that works for most people to something that is only shown to work in a narrow situation.

kuwa mzuri's picture

On one hand (the left?):

An ex-pert is someone who was once pert, but now tedious to the letter which is often penned by scribes to sound smart.

A scribe records his-stories and her truths from a point of view and often as propaganda with pay.

A con-man (politician, CEO, actor, cult leader) is usually both expert and scribe.

On the other hand:

A wise person knows things, true things.  A wise teacher passes them on, more often and effectively without the classroom.

A common-sensical person does things and does them well.

An intuitive person understands human nature, despite what the ex-perts, scribes, and con-men tell us it is.

Kefeer's picture

A person with reason, simply uses the process of cause and effect.  All reason functions on a cause and effect premise.  That - this produces this; and this produces that; and that produces that.  And that is how you will link logical thought together.  When we say someone is rational, we mean by that, that they run through thought processes that work off cause and effect.  God has put into the fabric of the thinking of man, cause and effect relationships.  If I do this, this results.  If I do this, this results.  If this is true, this is true, and that's true, and this is true.  And if you follow cause and effect back far enough, there has to be a first what?  Cause.  Source

kuwa mzuri's picture

It's important not to correlate all misfortune and unfortunate effect with ungodly cause. I believe the Ultimate Source is God and Good and that not all travail and troubles happen to those who deserve it.  Job was tried and found true to God.  Non-evil people or repentant sinners are beset and die on account of others' greed, envy, perversion and malice, because there is evil, but their soul salvation lies in not being evil themselves and in loving God.  Evil is not of God.  Perhaps consequence and a withdrawal of Grace from the wicked are a better characterization.

If you're saying our country has gone to the dark, bacchanalian and bloody side and no longer has God's favor, you probably are correct about that, and can apply this to the entire world.  There is millennia-old organized evil that's conspired to debase and debauch human society, especially our children, for their fallen angel and esoteric "illumination" and humankind's transformation. To a quite terrible extent, using deception (fake news, fake history, fake science, and encoded language), cultural subversive programming (TV, gaming, and porn), moral relativity, materialism, techno-seduction, surveillance and oppression, AI, robotics, and war (with WWIII to come very soon), they're succeeding in creating a Matrix to serve their new pyramidal ordering of remaining peoples on earth.  

You cannot be considered an elite/ el-ite today and allowed into the capstone, unless you pay inhuman blood homage to the fallen one, their god.  All others they think of as cattle, chattel and slaves beneath them, supporting their sacrilege and selfishness in the masonry pyramid bondage construct.  They want a One World under Satan and want it in their arrogant, demonic, pedophilic, cannibalistic control.  Of course, they'll call it a New World Order of Everlasting Peace and Justice, the Age of Aquarius, and the Dawn of New Man, having one Governor-Prince, one religion of "love", "free love", and one credit of exchange.

May God have mercy on all our souls.

neutrino3's picture

Tylers, fair to contemplate article.

rosiescenario's picture

Well, if you’re a businessman, for example, what Trump said didn’t bother you. The intellectual class of no more than 2,00,000 people in the U.S. don’t represent everyone upset with Trump. The real problem is the ‘faux-expert problem’, one who doesn’t know what he doesn’t know, and assumes he knows what people think. An electrician doesn’t have that problem.


....and lets compare how Taleb puts things to the idiocy spouted from the various Fed Res. folks......they just love to spinout words that sound erudite, but have no meaning...just intellectual sounding swill.


I have always been a big fan of Taleb because he calls a spade a spade...he sez what he means and he is very perceptive.

Implicit simplicit's picture

ya, common sense doesn't need smarts like he posseses, yet it is lacking. People with common sense matter, the conundrum being- they are the silent majority that keep their mouths shut, exactly because they have common sense.

DeusHedge's picture

I am a regular ****, and guess what, zh changed partial ownership. HAHAHA

fishwharf's picture

Economist-mathematician-psuedo expert, Nassim Nicholas Taleb

More better.

Anonymous IX's picture

I enjoyed reading Taleb's perspective and do wholeheartedly concur that the system has not been fixed--but given novacaine!

Holden Caulfield's picture

The Zeigeist Movement and the Venus Project offer
viable sustainable solutions for the world's problems.

messystateofaffairs's picture

Sometimes, but not usually, my wife thinks I'm a sexpert.

Northern Flicker's picture

"So in Yemen, the [Saudi] intervention is good, but the intervention [by Russia] in Aleppo shouldn’t be allowed."

I have trouble with this statement, I would say just the opposite makes sense to me. Hence I find the rest, while it may be right, somewhat open to question. 

Crusader75's picture

Surprised this guy's ego can fit on one page.

Andre's picture

So in Yemen, the [Saudi] intervention is good, but the intervention [by Russia] in Aleppo shouldn’t be allowed.

So, when the CIA installed a dictator and the Houthis threw him out, the CIA got SA to wage a proxy war on behalf of the US.

This is "good"

When a secular leader asks an ally to help him fight off another CIA war, this is "bad"

Proxy wars good, requested intervention (even when supported by the government AND populace) bad.

I have no respect for this man.

And as for "idiots think in words"

So much for William Shakespear

Ace006's picture

He himself is not adopting the characterization of good or bad but pointing out that "they" say one intervention is good and the other us bad and are thus hypocritical.

"They" being the USG under Obama, I'm guessing. I don't feel like rereading the article.