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“…the proposition is, that the man who is entirely ignorant of a multifarious subject, is more competent to form a just and correct judgment concerning it, than the man who has made it the business of his life to comprehend it in theory and understand it in its minute and practical details.”

Sound familiar?  Can you guess the context?

The quote is from 1850, in a report from the Committee on the Judiciary of the California Senate.  They were complaining about the tendency of many mining districts to prohibit lawyers, either altogether or from practicing the law. (Taken from Pisani’s paper on American resource law in the 1999 book A Golden State.)

This does sound a lot like John Stewart’s takedown of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology…so nothing is new under the sun.  One difference is in 1850 it was the legislators complaining that their expertise was overlooked; in 2014 it was the legislators demonstrating their distain of expert knowledge.

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