Last week, a House committee revealed emails from David Morens, who worked under Dr. Anthony Fauci, former director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. The emails further indicate a cover-up as to the origins of COVID-19 (a Chinese lab). Dr. Fauci was the federal government’s primary architect in response to and spokesperson in the COVID-19 pandemic. There is considerable evidence that Dr. Fauci and his colleagues were wrong in assessing the disease and the correct response to it. They also engaged in an active campaign to smear the reputations of distinguished scientists who, as we now know, were correct in explaining the errors, misstatements and responses to the pandemic.

The result of the COVID-19 misinformation campaign was to destroy millions of jobs and businesses, unnecessarily shut down schools, and damage future generations. It also caused undue panic among young people who had little chance of contracting fatal infections from the disease and many excess deaths because of undertreatment of those most at risk while misallocating resources to those at little risk.

The public, including many government officials and Presidents Donald Trump and Biden, understandably had little knowledge of exotic viruses. All turned to the experts. Dr. Fauci had the title and experience. Yet few were aware of how little he knew. Fame and power went to his head. He conned millions at a terrible cost by failing to admit what he did not know and pretending to know things he did not know.

When an issue requires specialized knowledge or experience, people naturally seek out the “experts.” The experts shape public policy, business strategies and societal expectations. Yet history is replete with examples where the experts in science, political and military affairs, economics, demography, history, and the environment have failed to provide accurate information, leading to incorrect actions and predictions.

Economists are often regarded as the oracles of financial markets and national economies. Their predictions, however, often go awry, sometimes with catastrophic consequences. Most recently, President Biden’s economic advisers, including the treasury secretary and the chairman of the Federal Reserve, missed the inflation of the last three years. Many economists had warned that the big increase in the monetary supply as a response to the pandemic would cause inflation but were ignored by the Biden administration’s “experts.”

Many economists worldwide believed that Japan’s rapid economic expansion before 1990 would continue indefinitely, dubbing it the Japanese Economic Miracle. But the asset bubble burst in the early 1990s, leading to the Lost Decade of stagnation. This misjudgment stemmed from a failure to account for underlying structural issues within the Japanese economy, such as demographic challenges and rigid corporate practices.

Back in 1968, biologist Paul Ehrlich wrote a book, “The Population Bomb,” warning that the world would soon run out of resources because of the rapidly rising overpopulation. His “mankind was doomed” thesis was soon accepted as the conventional wisdom by the global elite. But a funny thing happened on the way to overpopulation doomsday — population growth started slowing to the point where most countries are now below replacement levels — that is, women, on average, are having fewer children (less than two) than needed for a stable population. In the last few months, there have been articles in major media about the coming depopulation disaster — leading to an underpopulation doomsday. Decades ago, China initiated a “one child per household” policy, which it has been unable to reverse despite a now-falling population. A rising tide of the elderly and a fall in productive workers is not sustainable.

In the 1960s and 1970s, influential scientists and media outlets warned of an impending ice age because of observed temperature declines in the preceding decades. This hypothesis, however, was soon overtaken by a new consensus on global warming, a phenomenon driven by anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions.

But the beat goes on. “We don’t have 12 years to save the climate. We have 14 months,” the now-defunct news website ThinkProgress predicted 55 months ago. Gordon Brown said in 2009, when he was Britain’s prime minister, that we had “fewer than fifty days to save the planet from catastrophe.” In that same year, former Vice President Al Gore announced that “there is a 75% chance that the entire north polar ice cap, during the summer months, could be completely ice free within the next five to seven years” (15 years ago — and the ice cap is still there). In 1989, a U.N. report predicted that “entire nations could be wiped off the face of the earth by rising sea levels if the global warming trend is not reversed by the year 2000.” Thirty-five years after the report, no nation (or inhabited island) has disappeared because of rising sea levels.

There are almost countless environmental disaster forecasts whose expiration date has come and gone — yet new forecasts (with only a change in the doomsday date) keep appearing, often by the same “experts” who have been wrong.

Western analysts in the 1980s believed that the Soviet Union was a permanent geopolitical fixture that would endure. Indeed, the rapid collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 caught most experts by surprise. Much of this miscalculation was because of an overestimation of the Soviet economy, an underestimation of political corruption, and growing public discontent within the Soviet bloc.

Expert opinions and predictions that have failed underscore the need for humility and caution when making and relying on experts.

• Richard W. Rahn is chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth and MCon LLC.

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