Thinking About Technocracy

Where to from here?

Technocracy and the 50 year farm bill

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Today’s NY Times advocates a 50 year farm bill in an opinion piece by Wes Jackson and Wendell Berry.  It’s a good proposal.  Their ideas and concerns are spot on.  Here’s why it won’t happen:

America is perhaps further from being a technocracy than any developed country on earth.  In other words, America hates the long-term plan and the ideals necessary to make long-term plans work.  That ethos hasn’t been around Washington in more than 4 decades. 

We’ve seen instead a Washington focused on the individual and on advancement of advantage for the quick and nimble.  In short, it’s been an economy of exploitation.  That works fairly well when resources are available, bulldozing is easy, and regions can develop out of synch with each other and still carry the national tax needs through diversification. 

When larger technical issues such as global warming, Internet advances, globalized securities markets and rapid global sophistication (in general) take hold, it’s much harder to run a slash and burn economy to any sort of consistent success.  Indeed, the prospects of painful and spectacular crashes are most likely heightened due to the velocity necessary to enable creative destruction at the scale of today’s world.  

The sort of farm bill envisioned by Jackson and Berry is infeasible because the US is not structured to enable and manage long-term social contracts.  No one trusts the plans made and the structures created won’t be plundered in the future… just as no one trusts the institutional staying power of large corporations for similar reasons–they tend to get plundered by their management of all the available value just as soon as management can develop a suitable scheme to pay itself the lot.

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Written by ryanlanham

January 6, 2009 at 6:07 pm

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