h a l f b a k e r y
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I have more than a sneaking admiration for technocracy,
but it occurs to me that what is meant by technocracy in
the Italian sense is not what i mean by it.
One problem with government policy as it stands,
regardless of political system or ideology, implicit or
explicit, is that it seems only
rarely to be based on good
evidence. An example close to my heart would be that
compulsory education age in England is too low for children
to learn best the kind of things they are explicitly expected
to learn in schools, and that psychological research, i
think, supports this. However, what i've just said is a
political position because i'm emphasising the importance
of that kind of education over an economic view that
parents should be able to work in the money economy as
much as possible in order to promote economic growth,
although in the long term there would presumably be a
long-term economic benefit to the more competent adults
turned out by an education system which starts at the age
of six or later rather than five.
Several assumptions have been made in this argument.
One is of course that economic growth is a good thing.
Another is probably a naive stab in the dark for me
regarding economic theory along the lines of Friedman
versus Keynes or something.
If the country is run by educational technocrats, one set of
decisions would be made. If it's run by economic
technocrats, another set of decisions would happen. Both
would be based on well-founded research and experience,
and could be incompatible. However, as it happens it's
even worse than this: economists (for example) disagree
on lots of points, and in fact most points are controversial
and sometimes divide along ideological lines.
An advantage, however, of technocratic government is
because it's undemocratic there's no need to worry about
Therefore, i suggest the following political system:
A general election be held to vote for the right kind of
technocrat. These technocrats are to be divided along
ideological lines within their areas of expertise and
between areas of expertise themselves, so for example we
get to elect criminologists, economists, sociologists or
psychologists by a proportional representation type
system, and within each discipline we decide whether, say,
we want a psychodynamic, cognitive or neurological
approach to psychology-based policy, or a Keynesian,
monetarist or other approach to economics, and so forth.
The government thus elected then stays in power for four
dozen of your Earth years in order that the technocrats'
careers be completely played out before they get to suffer
the consequences of unpopular policies, and it's the
professions that get elected rather than the individuals.
Alternatively, maybe we should just let the lizards take
||//Alternatively, maybe we should just let the lizards take over// talk about bolting the stable door after the horse...
||Long live the philosopher king/queen!
||//...compulsory education age in England is too low for children to learn best the kind of things they are explicitly expected to learn in schools...//
||I'm interested in what you think it is that schools are too early for. Could you elaborate, please?
||Are you suggesting full elections every 48 years, or replacing a percentage every few years?
I suspect that the former would probably tend to degenerate into a dictatorship by the time of the next election.
||Long terms do have the advantage that a government can't convincingly blame their predecessors, but on the other hand if you get a bad lot, there's a long wait before any changes can be made.
||Regarding the mechanics of this: if any technocrat actually stands for election on a specific technocratic platform they are automatically a politician (and, in my refinement of this idea, fall through the trapdoor in the platform into a box full of angry geese which is then pushed down a steep hill into a tar pit). Being political is incompatible with the technocratic ideal and therefore the constitutional framework must be buttressed against this.
||It's a significant risk: even the creation of this notionally technocratic format makes the professions inherently political. What is needed then, is for the election to be very clearly for the technocratic positions, rather than the individuals, which makes it, I suppose, more properly a referendum. Once the will of the masses is clear, the head of state is given the job of appointing from the non-political professional world technocrats who match the mandated philosophies. Appointed technocrats would have the choice of accepting either the position or the geese box treatment. Of course, this system put a great deal of interpretative powers of the head of state, so the completed appointment process should be subject to a post-completion ratification by The People and, if The People dislike it, the head of state gets dropped in with the anserinae as per. This provides the head of state with an incentive to get it right first time.
||This system also allows for the creation of an almost entirely ceremonial technocratic post of The Master of the Geese who can, other than at times of election, kick it with the Beefeaters and generally charm the forrins.
||I am astounded by the technocrat governments as
essentially they are a repudiation of democracy. I
cannot imaging such a thing happening in the US.
But maybe it is because there is such a deep
suspicion of expertise of any sort in the US.
||We are in the era of the Greater European Expediency, which is showing how flexible the democratic form can be, if your government owes enough.
||// a box full of angry geese which is then pushed down a steep hill into a tar pit //
||Totally unacceptable - cruelty to geese.
||Wasps ? Cats ? Wasps and cats ?
||[Loris], obviously because i don't think schools are
educational institutions as such i can't answer that
question, it's more a random example that
happened to come to mind, but as it happens,
what i have in mind is literacy. This is really not
my main point.
||What i had in mind was that the "school" of
experts of a particular stripe gets elected and the
natural rate of attrition replaces them over a long
period of time.
||You must also be aware of my attempt at satire
here because in fact i think we'll have died out by
||[Calum], i suppose part of what i'm saying is that
an apolitical position can only ever be pretend.
||[Bungston], probably true here as well, but i can't
speak for Italy because i've only ever visited. But
yes, the illusion of democracy becomes harder to
maintain with technocrats in charge. The way i'd
put it is, when this kind of situation emerges, the
illusion of people power becomes less convincing.
||// [Calum], i suppose part of what i'm saying is that an apolitical position can only ever be pretend.//
Yeah, me too. You can have technocracy under a benevolent dictatorship, thereby removing the democratic element that instantly politicises the technocratic professions (which is what I was driving at with my suggestion) but the appointment, whether ratified by the People or not, is itself necessarily a political act. The only difference with a technocratic appointment is that there the subset of the "politically engaged" is narrowed to court, courtiers and lobbyists (if these last two are in reality distinguishable). In this sense, bank-mandated technocratic appointments are the least political because banks have no ideology - they pursue the expediency of a well-ordered market.
||[8th of 7], I'm not fussed, so long as we agree on the principle. Happy to replace geese with the contents of hospital sharps boxes.
||//showing how flexible the democratic form can be, if your government owes enough.//
||[calum], I'm not so sure about that. Our government owes far more, and flexibility is not a trait that is associated with our current crop of washingtonians.
||There are perennial, pernicious fallacies that
permeate human existence. One of these is that
politics is a result of having politicians. Another
one is that there is some way to improve upon, or
even eliminate self-interest as a driver for
excellence. And perhaps the most absurd one, in a
species that has at least a few hundred thousand ,
if not millions of years of self-awareness and
started on the Savannah running from lions and
studies its own history, is that this time, it will be
||The key to having better politicians is changing
the incentive system. They typically are already
plenty gifted enough if they got to where they
are. It's that their personal advantage is not
necessarily coinciding with that of the governed
population. Figure out how to do that, and you'll
||The key pro-technocrat arguments, e.g. the
absence of specific political allegiance coupled
with subject matter expertise and freedom from
elections is no more than the typical, brief feeling
of spring when a "benign" dictatorship takes over -
- free from having to deal with making people
agree, they can really accomplish something. It's a
tacit admission of democratic failure, it's as if we
all agreed that the politicians largest incentive --
reelection -- is of necessity what breaks the
system. A scary proposition.