Thinking About Technocracy

Where to from here?

Kevin Baker hammers Howard Scott

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Author Kevin Baker wrote a column appearing on his website that labels early technocrat Howard Scott as “weird.”  I expect Scott was so though I have no evidence (nor have I looked for any) and Baker offers little that is more damning than that usually turned up about U.S. presidential candidates.   Overall, it’s sort of an innuendo column, but it does drive a pretty deep blade.  The point is made…these guys are weird, shy away from them.

Scott was almost certainly a crackpot of sorts.  I’m sure Ayn Rand was one and look at the kooky following Objectivism has built.  Historians will have to try and ultimately condemn Howard Scott further, if he ever merits the review.  I think he is still significant in the way any crackpot who plows up ideas of a rather new style can be–just as Ayn Rand is, in fact.  I can’t disagree more than I do with Rand who I credit with more mayhem that she probably merits, but still take her egoist follow-on army quite seriously.  They are the core of what we call “libertarian” in most of my experiences.

For whatever denial is worth, I’m not a “traditional technocrat.”  Never have been, and have no desire to start.  No one likes labels much who has half a brain, and I wouldn’t opt in to any I know of off the cuff.  I believe in pluralism, human rights, markets, liberty, and all the other motherhood ideas and litmus tests usually applied…including motherhood.  I also believe democracy is full of implicit problems and that governance under democracy is woefully short-handed in its capacity to deal with the sorts of crises the world now faces.

As I have written and will assert at some length, I am much more inclined to what is now industrial ecology as practiced at Yale and at several other institutions at present.    To my mind, those domains represent an extension of planning.  If their roots extend to kooks and charlatans, it staggers me little.   Of course many pursuits have origins in less than esteemed pools of muck.

Technocracy is clearly a word associated with blackguards and mind-stealing in some quarters.  I find it in Google searches nearly always associated with anti-bureaucratic arguments toward which I have considerable sympathy, myself.  Whatever.  Straw men are the least interesting opponents to anyone who has something genuine to say.

What more concerns me is evidence and evidence-based governance.  Even opting for the term “science” or “engineering” fills any random group of intellectuals with moans and sighs. Justly so, in most cases, I’d argue.  We have little good history of  sustained bureaucratic successes even in obvious areas like environmental management. It is for just those reasons I backed away from the formal study of public administration, though I stil find government to be our best singular hope of implementing post-pricing systems that account for other evidential criteria as policy measures rather than attempting to monetize them.  I doubt governments will soon do so unless necessity is even more painful than I currently anticipate as we transition through market volatilities associated with carbon problems including, most accutely, shortfalls.


Written by ryanlanham

January 11, 2009 at 9:09 pm

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