Anyone with expertise in any job always has a tendency to assume other people’s jobs are trivial. For example, I think that managing a programming project is pretty easy compared with the actual programming; but I bet if you asked a project manager, they’d tell you the opposite.
I think this is a universal tendency. We look at anything — carpentry, marketing, baking, merchant banking — and think “Well, that looks easy. It’s just a matter of having the right tools/bluffing/learning some recipes/knowing the right people”. That’s because we don’t see the complexity that people who understand the field do see. It’s related to our old friend the Dunning-Kruger effect and I think it’s a big part of why the people of this country have had enough of experts: because they simply don’t recognise expertise.
So the tendency is universal. Wise people check that tendency in themselves — in fact, you could say that that’s part of what wisdom means. The problem comes when great power (often in the form of money) is manifested in someone who lacks that wisdom.
In the most extreme case, a powerful but unwise person might think “How hard could it be to be president?”, and so ignore everything that everyone knows about how it’s done. I don’t know if this think-others’-jobs-are-easy effect is strongest in politics — it might be. But what is certain is that it has the most damaging effect there.
So. How can we think more clearly about expertise? Here is one concrete question we might ask.
1. There is a scale of how much expertise is required in a job. Doctors need a lot of expertise. City traders apparently do not (based on studies that show they are outperformed by random picking). Carpenters are probably somewhere in between.
2. There is also a scale of how visible expertise is, with doctors again at the top (you can tell, quickly and painfully, if they don’t know their job) and politicians near the bottom (because the results of their choices are often not apparent for many years, or ever). ￼Footballers are right at the top of the visibility-of-expertise scale, because they get an public objective assessment of their skills, lasting 90 minutes, every week.
My question is: to what degree are those two scales correlated?
Suppose you took 1000 jobs, assessed each for how much expertise is needed and how apparent that expertise is to laymen. If you plotted them on a scatter diagram, how close would they cluster to a line?
I don’t know, of course. Has any work been done on this problem?
You could gather perceived expertise with opinion polls. (“On a scale on 1 to 10, how much expertise do you think nurses need to do their jobs?”) But how would you go about measuring actual expertise in a way that makes any sense across domains?