I am an expert. Everyone tells me so. They tell me that I am an expert on diploma mills and degree fraud because I have been working professionally in that field for many years. I have become either glorious or notorious, depending on whether the person evaluating me got a degree from a genuine college. I am invited to write book chapters and introductions and give speeches and testimony, owing to my general splendor in that arena. However, I don't have any degrees in higher-education administration or policy.
They tell me that I am an expert on birds because I have published three books about them, including co-editing Birds of Oregon (Oregon State University Press, 2003), a five-pounder whose bibliography contains 4,000 citations. I proved that volume's worth and my expertise when asked, by a person who hadn't seen it, if she could carry it in her pocket in the field. I said, "Sure, if you're a large kangaroo or a small aircraft." I don't have any degrees in ornithology, either.
I may be a nascent expert in a few other subjects — time will tell. Or will it? Who makes those decisions, anyway?
To pick an example that may be unfairly obvious, who decided that Noam Chomsky was an expert in everything? Did he simply declare that one day, following which the assembled masses bowed down in unison? How does a renowned professor of linguistics transmute into an expert on world affairs and the human condition? Surely this is a mega-meme of great cultural import: Word has gone forth that Chomsky is an expert... '