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Is technocracy the new democracy? Discuss ...

18 replies

Solopower · 10/11/2011 22:42

Greece has a new PM, head of a new government of national unity. He's a banker who has been brought in to sort out the Greek debt crisis, in spite of not having been elected. Apparently the same might happen in Italy, when Berlusconi gets the boot.

To me that's like a supermarket that has been plagued with shoplifters who have stolen so much that the shelves are empty. The supermarket then invites the shoplifters back in and trusts them to restock the shelves ...

Could it work? Could it happen here? Or is it already happening, but behind the scenes (government held to ransom by the banks)? Are countries just huge companies that need to be run for profit by financial experts? Does that make us shareholders or shelf-stackers or both?

Has democracy had its day?

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claig · 10/11/2011 22:47

I think you are onto something, Solo.
Newsnight had a "technocrat" on last night, telling us of the benefits of technocrats.

We'll probably be sold that technocrats are the answer to our problems.

Solopower · 10/11/2011 23:00

My father used to say to me that we were all political; that everything we did was political in one way or another.

That seems so last century now. What we are is tiny subsidiaries of the mother company; minute economic units that need to be bullied managed in order to extract maximum productivity from us.

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 10/11/2011 23:26

In wartime, countries often put military people in the hotseat. In a financial crisis, why not someone with economic expertise in the top job? Yes, countries are big financial concerns, selling and buying, looking for investors, borrowing to develop, looking to invest overseas. The phrase 'UK Plc' is not a new one. Even Napoleon described us as 'a nation of shopkeepers'. We thrive, not because of our fantastic natural resources or our cheap labour but because we're bloody good at trading anything you put our way. Even our favourite national drink is an import.

And I don't know why the idea of 'minute economic units' is a surprise... that's exactly what a household is. Unless you happen to have independent means, most people are dependent on an employer or customers for their livelihood. As long any government running the country leaves me to get on with running my 'minute economic unit' and my life without interfering too much, that suits me.

claig · 10/11/2011 23:48

'In wartime, countries often put military people in the hotseat.'

Some countries do, but not the United Kingdom. We had elected, accountable politicians in charge, like Churchill or Thatcher or Blair.

'In a financial crisis, why not someone with economic expertise in the top job?'
Economists have different views. I think it is better to have a democratically elected politician who listens to economic advisers, but makes the final decision.

Let us not forget the down to earth common sense of Margaret Thatcher, who said

'You and I come by road or rail, but economists travel on infrastructure.'

Solopower · 10/11/2011 23:52

Well this is a very new way of looking at things for me, Cogito, and I'm trying to get my head round it.

What it means, I think, is that the voice of the people can only be as loud as that of the lowliest employee, whose freedom is limited by her total dependence on the company. Just another way of saying that you are not worth anything to the government or entitled to any perks (ie schools, hospitals, etc) unless you are economically productive.

So am I right? Is anyone on benefits or anyone who is ill, disabled or unemployed, old or young going to be allowed to fall into a black hole?

Economically unproductive = worthless and with no rights?

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Solopower · 10/11/2011 23:54

Claig, I felt sorry for the Greek woman interviewed on Radio 4 who said something like 'The new PM is a banker. He will look after the bankers, not the people.'

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claig · 11/11/2011 00:04

Solopower, you are right. It's obvious. The policies are obvious.

This is a Daily Telegraph article about Italy.

The former head of the centre-left coalition was an ex-Goldman Sachs man.

His government imposed massive austerity on teh people and collapsed eventually, and of course the left in Italy still support austerity.

It's the same the world over.

claig · 11/11/2011 00:14

'Significant sections of big business are now pushing for an early change of government. They regard Berlusconi as too weak and too enmeshed in corruption and sex scandals to push through the most extreme austerity measures in Italian history.'

That's why they got rid of Berlusconi. You hear all the socialists on our TV saying Berlusconi must go and we are told about his "bunga bunga" parties because they want him to go because he is not capable or perhaps willing
'to push through the most extreme austerity measures in Italian history'.

But you can bet your boots that the socialists will do it.

Solopower · 11/11/2011 00:14

Very interesting articles, Claig. Thanks. I have a few Italian acquaintances whose faces are getting longer every day, poor things.

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CogitoErgoSometimes · 11/11/2011 00:22

Any government wants as many people as possible to be economically productive, stands to reason. Work - in whatever form it takes - is generally a good thing. Idleness is the killer. Most of us are interdependent in our community when it comes to our livelihoods and by contributing financially in the form of tax we can finance other things nationally that we agree are important.

As for limitations, I don't agree. We may have been conditioned by the micro-management of the state in recent years away from thinking and doing things for ourselves but I think that era is over. We don't have to wait for a government to make the move every time. We can improve our immediate environment quite well without interference. And that includes looking out for people who are ill, disabled, unemployed etc.

claig · 11/11/2011 00:25

Portillo said on TV just now that he thinks that many banks in Europe will eventually be nationalised. I think that should have been done right at the beginning of the financial collapse.

If you listen to the news you see that all the politicians are urging Germany to let the ECB be the lender of last resort to Italy etc. Germany is reluctant to do it because they fear what happened in the Weimar Republic might be the result i.e. possible hyperinflation which would impoverish us all.

claig · 11/11/2011 00:29

'Any government wants as many people as possible to be economically productive, stands to reason.'

In the early years, Thatcher created unemployment to bring down inflation and weaken the unions.

'And that includes looking out for people who are ill, disabled, unemployed etc.'

We as individuals can not be as effective as the pooled resources of the state in looking after the ill, disabled people and the unemployed. We don't have the resources, whereas the state does.

claig · 11/11/2011 00:31

Big Society is no substitute for the Welfare State.
Big Society is a Big Con.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 11/11/2011 00:43

"We as individuals can not be as effective as the pooled resources of the state"

That's the patrician tripe that was peddled by New Labour and it stinks. "Don't bother ... someone else will take care of it". If enough indivuals can actually be bothered to make a difference it will enhance whatever the state is able to do. Call it Big Society, call it 'community', call it 'being a good neighbour'... I think it's a far bigger con to suggest that doing nothing helps anything.

claig · 11/11/2011 00:49

I think that Big Society is supposed to be a palliative for the running down of the Welfare State. It's not a choice between Big Society or doing nothing. The Welfare State is doing something, its professionally trained employees are doing something much more effective than untrained individuals volunteering their services.

Being a good neighbour is no substitute for professional welfare services.

CogitoErgoSometimes · 11/11/2011 07:16

And if being a good neighbour was actually being proposed as a wholesale substitute you would have a point. But it isn't. Despite the recent cost-cutting, we still enjoy an extremely comprehensive system of welfare. Still means we can do more ourselves besides. The thread started by querying whether technocrats are in charge and whether democracy is on its way out. As individuals, we cannot change the entire economy of a whole country overnight so we need leaders making responsible decisions on a macro level, leaders who are well aware that their actions will be judged by the people, while we make as much difference as we can on a micro level. And I don't think a few new PMs around Europe means democracy is on its way out. It's not that long, after all, since Thatcher was replaced by Major and Blair was replaced by Brown, unelected. Both were voted out in due course. The new PMs across Europe have to work together because they have chosen to merge their currencies. They have very few choices open, none of which are going to be popular. They will also be voted out by the people if they get it wrong. Expect elections in the Spring.

Solopower · 12/11/2011 13:00

The idea of technocrats is going to be discussed on Radio 4 'Any Questions' today, if you are interested.

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scaryteacher · 12/11/2011 20:46

How can you vote the technocrats out though if they like the new Greek pm or the Italian Monti, are unelected? Major was still an MP as was Brown, but these guys aren't.

For me the technocrats are half way to a dictatorship.

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