Arguments for and against a technocratic goverment

Against –  Mark van Wijgerden
Technocracy: Doomed to Fail

A technocratic government, ministers who rely on academic training or practical experience, is a show of the incompetence of politicians: those who are supposed to control the country indicate that they cannot- whatever the reason may be.

First of all, the scientists and leaders who live in ivory towers do not have political antennae to deal with all the egos and machos who seat in the parliament. It requires excellent helmsmanship to cope with all the different opinions, interests, and wish lists. That is where we first saw a marriage of convenience between VVD, CDA, and PVV and subsequently (after a disastrous action of the latter) find occasional allies against the PVV in D66, GL and CU. Each party has its own priorities and assert they know what their voters think is really important.  These voters can be anyone; car drivers or carrier tricycle owners, tenants or homeowners, parents with children or people without children, and so on. Another problem is that there is no ‘average man’ or a ‘public interest’ or ‘common denominator’ which is after all what a technocracy claims to favor. As illustrated before there are always extremes. Inherent to these extremes, there will always be people who benefit less or even deteriorate due to ongoing policies. It requires tremendous rhetorical skills to sell these policies. In addition, the gentlemen (note that this is not intended to be sexist, all the more to illustrate the elitism) directors are not personally responsible for the damage, which decreases the involvement or commitment substantially.

The intelligentsia cannot identify with the experiences of the ordinary man, because of the simple fact that these intelligentsia are no ordinary men. There is a reason why they are the very commonly cited scientist or the CEO of a large company. They stand out from the crowd. And the Joneses cannot identify with them. Furthermore, directors are not (prominent) members of a political party, so they do not sense the responsibility of being accountable. The parliament is put offside and that exactly is not the purpose of a representative political society for which our ancestors fought hard.  After all, a business administration will have to walk the lines designed by the parliament as well, no matter how knowledgeable they may present themselves.

Another problem is the usual lack of a clear, single truth in science. Enough perfect examples of which the best known is, of course, the eternal debate on macroeconomics between the classical school and the Keynesian Theory; which intellectual legacy should be followed?

To summarize, it means that a business administration cannot be fully functional because of the simple fact that the, no doubt on paper very skilled, professional people are never involved in daily grind, nor base their actions on any skills of the political game. Just based on the latter, a technocracy is a failed mission even before started at all.

In Favour –  Gerard Drosterij
Technocracy: Doomed to Fail

“Wientjes will also be against the rain.” Minister Asscher parried the criticism of VNO-NCW front man Bernard Wientjes on 6 billion in new cuts. Wientjes achieved to question that decision; an attitude that was totally unrealistic according to Asscher. The point of the Minister was: cuts are inevitable and if you think about going to whine, you do not have the facts straight. Asscher became a corporate politician: the policy was bound to comply to the inevitable, objective facts. You can talk the hind legs off a donkey, but if the numbers speak for themselves, you should basically keep your mouth shut.

Pursuing politics along precise lines is an ancient and universal desire. Socrates believed that if you are on the right track to find the truth, you automatically do what is right. Knowledge and ethics go hand in hand, they are the ideal marriage as the basis for perfect policy – free of emotion and ideology. The European three percent regulation is a good example: a number that serves as the basis for a comprehensive and strict policy.

The governance model of political objectivity is the technocracy. Interesting in this form of government is that the point of focus is not the leader, but the knowledge. A democracy is controlled by the people, a monarchy by a frost, but in a technocracy it is the content that governs the people. And there is the problem right away: you can not hold to account knowledge, only the people who defend the knowledge and act on it. Technocrats appear to deny this message: they invoke the knowledge they now possess. That is water-tight.

Democracy can not escape from that discussion too. Although a Cabinet is mandated to govern after elections, it is not a license for bad policy. All of our leaders are elected (which can be hardly said in the Netherlands, but that aside), the political debate in the end is about the content of their policies. So when economist Bas Jacobs – and many with him – believe that Prime Minister Rutte does not know about the economy, our Prime Minister will have to commend on it. Why? Because Jacobs is educated and earned his stripes in science. What Rutte usually fails to do, going into the substance, is something his adjutant Samson does. He tweets with all and sundry about the direction of the Cabinet without realizing his dream: that everyone is convinced of his right.

And so the defect of technocracy and the inevitability of democracy is clear: since there will never be agreement on the content of policies and politics, we have no other choice than to face the public debate. In other words, those who disagree with government policy will have to focus on the audience. Because in politics it is not about being right but about being put in the right. And that game is called democracy.

This article is translated from Dutch to English by the Editorial Board of Asset | Accounting & Finance.