If we learn nothing else from the annus horribilis that is 2020, let it be that expertise is precious.
When the Covid-19 outbreak first hit, society was forced to cancel anything fun and behave as if everything was infectious. Some consumers began hoarding, and widespread anxiety prevailed.
As medical professionals learned more about the virus, public health experts developed procedures to allow many activities to resume while also guarding against rampant infections. Businesses and schools reopened — successfully, for the most part.
Most critically, production of several promising vaccines now is underway, thanks to an unprecedented convergence of scientific expertise to combat the virus and its devastating economic effects.
At the same time, the consequences of disregarding expertise have become evident. The U.S. has suffered hundreds of thousands of deaths amid an inept, politicized response to the pandemic. Meanwhile, the Ontario government’s meddling with its own health experts’ advice impaired efforts to suppress the virus — contributing to another wave of economically destructive lockdown measures.
The lesson: cultivate expertise and trust it.
In the financial world, investors must believe in the proficiency and integrity of those they depend on for advice. Efforts to regulate industry titles must inspire public confidence in the quality of advice, not rubber-stamp the status quo in a hollow simulation of consumer protection.
More important, legislators must resist the temptation to enable political interference with regulatory policy. The Ontario government mangled the regulators’ approach to funds’ fee structures by prioritizing politics over expertise. Future efforts to give politicians greater control of regulation should be resisted. The short-term desires of the government of the day should not be given preference over hard-won expertise that’s devoted to the long-term public interest.
If our pandemic-racked year has taught us nothing else, it’s that degrading and ignoring expertise comes at our peril.