We are entering, it is said, a post-fact era. Populist politicians dismiss data and expertise out of hand, and the UK and US publics seem to nod along. Michael Gove, a UK MP campaigning for Brexit, summed this up simply: “people in this country have had enough of experts.”
This comes at a time when good-quality expertise and data have never been easier to access. Fact-checkers, explainer websites, data journalism and gigabytes of open data are all a click away.
And yet despite all this, in 2016 so far, numbers themselves seem to be under assault by a populist insurrection. We could blame populist anti-elitism, innumeracy, racism and xenophobia – and indeed we should. But economists (including economic journalists) must also consider our role.