One of the unfortunate side effects of capitalism’s prodigious creation of wealth is the flow of money into academia, think tanks, media, and bureaucracies that in turn leads to the formation of an “expert” class. From Claudio Grass at mises.org:
It can be argued that the world has reached the sorry state it’s in today largely because academics, politicians, “distinguished experts,” and “recognized authorities” did not have the humility to admit their own mistakes or to at least recognize the limits of their knowledge. Of course, this is far from a new affliction in societies and political systems. Hubris was among the most terrible sins that the ancient Greeks warned against, and there have been too many narcissists in positions of power to count since the emergence of the first organized societies. People who believe they know best, not just for themselves, but everyone else too, are naturally attracted to roles that would allow them to impose their will, their morality, and their values on their neighbors.
However, one also can argue that the problem is much more prevalent today than at any other time in our history. The modern news landscape, both mainstream and social media, the supercharged propaganda machines of all developed nations, and our public education system, ensure that dangerous figures will hardly be challenged by anyone once presented to the public as de facto, “recognized,” and “widely accepted” authorities. This is also true of politicians, but things are infinitely more perilous when it comes to science. The average citizen can more easily question a political stance directly, whereas it can be impossible to judge the merits of a scientific one without detailed and specific knowledge.
Therefore, it is much easier to “sell” any academic, from professors to junior researchers, as an “authority,” one that must be obeyed and never questioned. They can freely give us all advice on how to live our lives, and they can even dictate policy, despite the fact that usually that kind of thing tends to have side effects in areas they have absolutely no clue about. Once placed on their pedestals, they become “anointed.” They don’t even have to share their qualifications, their accomplishments, or any testimonies from their peers.