What is Technocracy?
Technocracy is a form of government where people with immense knowledge in science and/or with technical expertise in an area, are elected to public office. The decision-makers are known as technocrats, and they are appointed or elected to hold office based on their expertise in a given field of knowledge. Consequently, the decisions they make are based on scientific data or objective methodology that is backed by science instead of a mere opinion.
Technocracy differs from traditional democracy, where leaders are elected to office based on their popularity. Technocrats must possess proven performance and relevant skills in their field of expertise, rather than gaining popularity based on their political affiliations.
- Technocracy is a form of government where policymakers are appointed or elected based on their technical skills or proven performance.
- Technocrats make decisions based on data and objective methodology instead of public opinions from their constituents.
- The technocracy system differs from representative democracy, where public officials are instead elected based on popularity or majority interest.
In a representative democracy, leaders are expected to be associated with popular political affiliations and possess the required charisma to sway public opinion in their favor to get elected to office. Technocrats follow a distinct route by taking a data-oriented and research-based approach to solving problems.
The position came into existence during the Great Depression when highly-skilled professionals – such as scientists and engineers – were believed to be better placed to address economic problems than politicians who are elected to office based on their popularity and not proven performance.
In most governments worldwide, technocrats are selected to head key departments that require specialized skills and experts. For example, city infrastructure and planning rely heavily on the expertise of several professionals – such as engineers, architects, and quantity surveyors – to plan the design, layout, and construction of key city hubs.
Similarly, the treasury department makes decisions based on the input of key professionals who are experts in finance, economy, taxation, and law to make informed decisions that affect the entire population.
History of Technocracy
The concept of technocracy can be traced to William Henry Smyth, a California engineer, who introduced the term “technocracy” in his 1919 article titled “Technocracy – Ways and Means to Gain Industrial Democracy,” which was published in the Journal of Industrial Management. Smyth used the term to refer to industrial democracy, where servants such as engineers and scientists are incorporated in the decision-making process through existing firms.
American economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen was also recognized as a father of technocracy when he published an article titled “Engineers and the Price System” in 1921. Veblen championed the formation of a Soviet of Technicians. He believed that technological developments would be a precursor to a socialistic organization of economic affairs.
Veblen predicted a natural decay of the business enterprise system that would be necessitated by new inventions from scientists and engineers. As an early advocate of technocracy, Veblen was listed as one of the members of the Technical Alliance, whose members comprised engineers, scientists, and other technocrats in New York City.
During the Great Depression in the early 1930s, technocracy was a subject of public interest, as technocrats were called upon to play a key role in helping the economy heal from the effects of the crisis. However, the public interest in technocracy declined by the mid-1930s following the emergence of a new concept known as the New Deal, which President Franklin Roosevelt introduced to counter the Great Depression.
The New Deal comprised a series of public work reforms and financial reforms that President Roosevelt introduced between 1933 and 1939 to help the economy recover from the Great Depression.
The Technocracy Movement
The technocracy movement is a non-political movement that started in the early 20th century in the United States. The movement was founded by Howard Scott and Marion King Hubbert in the 1930s. They proposed replacing government with technocrats such as scientists and engineers who possessed the necessary skills and experience to manage the economy. They argued that a society headed by technical experts would be more productive and rational.
The technocracy movement criticized the price system as incapable of effective action. The technocrats proposed phasing out the price system and replacing it with a measurable unit such as ergs or joules.
Several technocratic organizations were established after the First World War, such as the New Machines and the Soviet of Technicians. However, the organizations did not last for a long period.
Before the Second World War, technocratic organizations were banned in Canada due to their alleged opposition to the war. The ban was lifted in 1943 when the organizations pledged their commitment to the war effort by proposing a program of total enrollment to the war.
Criticisms of Technocracy
One of the criticisms of technocracy is that it can leave a section of the population isolated, as the government uses public resources to implement the policies and regulations of technocrats.
Usually, technocrats make decisions that focus on scientific and technical principles, which may vary from the nature of society. They decide based on data and research methodology, whereas the electorate is more interested in programs that directly impact them.
Another criticism of technocracy is that it is undemocratic since it favors people with technical expertise over the will of the population. In a democratic society, people are elected or appointed into office based on the choice and will of the electorate.
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