I’ve been wondering why Gallup excludes science and academia from the list of institutions Americans can be confident in. The firm runs that poll since 1973 and had 40 years to ask. Maybe it didn’t because academia itself is far from being influential. Anyway, there’re other poll, with scientists mentioned:
A bigger puzzle is, why do these exact institutions earn so much confidence?
After all, the military have lots of secrets, the clergy is not accountable, the medical system charges a four-digit bill for dealing with a cold. What happens on the other end? The President and Congress, which are elected by people. The media—they’re open, you can check them.
Any versions? Well, the military, police, church, supreme court are monopolies. In contrast, the President, Congress, and the media furiously compete (often with each other). In 80 years, you can live through ten presidents and visit the same church every Sunday. You have ten local newspapers, but one police department.
Openness creates opportunities for information disclosure. Illustratively, competition between Obama and Republicans reveals lots of details. These blame games, which are impossible in hierarchical and secretive monopolies, reveal facts biased against the other side. And negative information is more powerful than good stories. As Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.”
This competition creates confusion and distrust, but it also gives a chance to compare different opinions and understand who does better. Public institutions holding a monopoly grant no chances. So, they seem to be fine. If they say that the Earth is squared, then it’s squared—who would question this obvious fact?