Yet it's plain in retrospect that they made serious mistakes. They erred either in bailing out Bear Stearns in March 2008 (my view) or in declining to bail out Lehman Brothers in September 2008.
Amid the financial turmoil after Lehman collapsed, it was clear that even these experts didn't know what to do. They oscillated from one policy to another, making it up as they went along. Not all their decisions were wrong, but the current economic recovery is agonizingly sluggish.
You can certainly argue that Iraq and the financial crisis posed unique and unprecedented challenges. It was probably impossible to get everything right. But the fact is that people we had every reason to regard as the greatest experts failed to get anything close to optimal results.
In that context, it's easier to see why voters seem to have little respect for expertise.
In the 2008 electoral cycle, Democratic primary voters, caucus-goers and super-delegates chose a candidate with minimal experience in either foreign or domestic policy and no executive experience at all. But Barack Obama seemed to have other strengths. In the financial crisis, he was no more than a helpful bystander. But he zoomed ahead of John McCain in the polls and was elected.
Now Republicans are zooming from one low-expertise candidate to another. Bachmann has never run anything but a small business. Cain ran a pizza company and lost an election for senator. Perry showed little interest in national issues in his first 10 years as governor of Texas.
Romney's years in private equity and one term as governor of Massachusetts give him an edge in expertise over the present field. But his experience is thin next to contenders in the past.
It's off-putting to watch what a low value voters put on expertise. But that's what happens when experts blow it one time after another.