Academarchy vs. Technocracy

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“Craig” suggested that technocracy is an existing term that embraces rule by experts. He’s correct. See here and here. Technocracy had a narrower meaning when it started out but now its definition seems to have broadened out somewhat. Still, I think technocracy is too narrow to capture what I picture in my mind. 

We have unelected people who get credentials and who build up reputations based on academic work of questionable value. The system of accreditation, academic credentials, research grants, tenure, promotions, and journal publications is part of how the selective credentials are distributed. These people build up their vitae by traveling between government, foundations, colleges, banks, and think tanks. They may do consulting and start consulting companies. They take administrative positions along the way. They get published. They enter bureaucracies, where their technical knowledge, such as it is, works in their favor. They are not actually experts in the technocratic sense, nor are they elected, nor do they replace politicians. They also use the media to gain exposure and build up reputation. Their knowledge, albeit detailed, is still too limited to justify running the lives of others, but this doesn’t deter their ambitions. They also may generate political party loyalties in various ways so as to garner government appointments. They signal that they won’t rock the boat and they are loyal to the general establishment. This set of people is what fills the ranks of the academarchy. Ben Bernanke, Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Lawrence Summers and lawyer John Yoo are prominent examples.  But academics are not often in the topmost visible positions in government. They may hold lower level positions or play advisory roles or heavily influence public policies in other ways as by advising Congressmen or testifying at hearings.

Academarchy is predicated on the idea that government through expertise and specialized knowledge is a good thing, or that letting these experts run your life creates value for you and/or makes you happier. This is a more seductive, but not less flawed, idea than the notion that a dictator knows what’s best for you or that the majority knows best or that your elected representatives deliver what is best for you.

9:43 am on May 14, 2011