In the run up to the election I thought I’d consider a revolution: where the intellectual elite are in charge! It’s controversial but since no-one trusts politicians anymore we need something else to replace them.
A technocracy is a ruling system where experts (academic and otherwise) construct policy within their specific fields, utilising their problem solving skills and knowledge to run and improve the situation. So unlike in a democracy, the people in charge are not elected by the public but by accolade of their work and experience. See appendix 1 if you want a quick explanation of how our government currently works.
Would the country be run better if it was in the hands of scientists, engineers, doctors, serving generals of the armed forces and economists?
All the major political parties are talking about cutting down on bureaucracy, removing middle managers from the NHS and Whitehall, cutting down on administration costs etc… So how about getting rid of the politicians (who are incredibly expensive as we have all discovered) and just let the people who know about stuff to do stuff?!
Ironically, half the problem with politicians is that they are accountable – they will lose their job if they do a bad job. This causes a problem because it’s you and me who make that call, and personally I know nothing about running a hospital and even less about the needs of the armed forces, we do not have the knowledge to make that call. To make matters worse we’re ridiculously influenced by external factors; we don’t read spending reviews or logistical reports, we read newspapers and watch TV.
MPs have advisors of different sorts, of course they don’t have to listen to them and often don’t – we all know about the David Nutt fiasco. Furthermore, ministers are not elected to be ministers and nor do they need to be qualified for the department in which they are placed. So it seems to me that the ministers who have ultimate control over policy to not fulfil democratic or technocratic requirements.
Adam Afriyie, the Tory Science Spokesperson and therefore likely Science Minister, openly said “I think, that any minister and any secretary of state, if they have an adviser, should be able to dismiss them on any terms at all – even if they just don’t like them”! I except he probably didn’t mean it to sound as bad as it does, but it clearly demonstrates that politicians will always think they know best despite having spent only 20 minutes reading a brief as opposed to the person who has spent 20 years studying it.
Technocrats would look at the problem, draw on their experience as a group and create a logical solution not based on right-wing media pressure or hysterical mothers but on reasoned evidence. In my technocratic utopia a loud minority would not be able to force their agenda, policy would be transparent – politicians will never admit that their policy was based on a strongly worded letter from the CEOs of RBS and Barclays –evidence will speak for itself. The newspapers might scream their usual horror but it wouldn’t matter because the only way to change the policy would be to prove it doesn’t work. As technocrats would be on committees the radical opinion of one man wouldn’t be able to lead the country, it would be a democracy but only for a select few that have devoted their lives to understanding the problem rather than besmirching the opposition and kissing babies.
The salaries of MPs alone in 2008/2009 was £157.2m, the total cost of Parliament was £498.4m. At the moment academic advisors who advise ministers do so for free, because they want to see their work improve lives, research is time consuming and not particularly financially rewarding, we do it because it interests us and it helps mankind. Aren’t people who have devoted their lives to developing renewable energy sources or reducing poverty in third world countries better qualified to solve those problems than someone who craves power and got their job by pushing leaflets through letterboxes?
Appendix 1: You might want to know what the system is now. Basically, we elect politicians as MPs to represent our constituencies, these people are meant to be accountable to the public because their job depends on your vote. MPs can then become ministers if they are part of the ruling government (note that we do not vote for them to become ministers), ministers can be in charge of departments such as health and defence meaning they have a direct say in how these areas are managed. Another way MPs, of government or opposition, can get involved in directing policy is on select committees, which are groups of MPs tasked with investigating special interests such as drugs policy or mental health provisions. These committees can only make suggestions to government, which then may have to go through parliament to become law – though not everything has to become law for it to affect policy of course; the government have a large degree of autonomy to make decisions on subjects such as funding or education. There are then the unelected civil servants who do a very wide range of tasks, but for the purpose of this blog they collect information and advise ministers on what to do. Finally, there are governmental advisors who are experts and also advise ministers and policy makers.