Monday, 14 November 2011
So are we moving from democracy to an era of technocracy? No not really, but it makes for better headlines than describing shit as simply the existing form of upper class rule is acquiring a slightly different public face in selected locales. So sure sure, the Webbs, those Fabian bods who founded the London School of Economics to produce better 'administrators, whether in commerce and industry, or in the national and municipal Civil Service' are probably doing cartwheels in their graves at what’s happening in Greece and Italy where terribly well qualified men (MEN!) well-versed in the ways of multinational bureaucracies are now in charge, its just on closer inspection so what?
The 2 good criticisms I've read of this swing to technocracy flow beautifully into each other. Oh hang on there’s a third that’s actually getting more attention about how it might challenge democratic institutions so lets deal with that one quickly; no it doesn’t. There will be elections in due course. The notion of DEMOCRATICALLY elected parties appointing technocrats being a threat to democracy is a fucking childish argument that distracts from far more serious critiques and anyone making it should shut the fuck up because they are a headline spewing, analytically incontinent fucktard.
Right back to the shit that actually matters.
Critique 1 is Professor Paul Krugman’s: The technocrats being given power to save the day are actually technically incompetent (“the trouble with the alleged technocrats we’re supposed to rely on isn’t just that they’re uninspiring — it is that they have been wrong about everything, again and again.”).
Critique 2 follows on from the above and was made in Private Eye issue 1301, which notes the new boss of the European Central Bank was previously a partner in Goldman Sachs while the new boss of the European Financial Stability Fund previously worked in hedge funds.
Putting both critiques together then the main qualifications the technocratic white knights now charged with saving the day appear to have is that they were the buggers who designed, tweaked and or worked within the fundamentally flawed system that is now fucking up on a monumental scale and when they weren’t doing that they were making themselves fortunes via the private financial products and financial institutions that fucked it up by exposing its fundamental flaws in the first place. Bonza!
A side note here is Professor John Kay’s neat wee note on how investment banker influence over the polity appears to have grown as the actual number of investment banks has declined, but that aside the wee interview with Sir Howard Davies, a former head of the Financial Services Authority and self-confessed technocrat, today on radio 4’s PM highlighted a range of interesting issues.
For Sir Howard, the good thing about technocrats is that they are people able to take the right or best, all things considered, decisions. Which is lovely I guess except it completely misses the point.
Sticking with Greece and Italy the actual point is not what decisions are taken, who takes them or even the decision-making process (as the third fucktard critique might fixate on), rather its whether decisions actually get implemented once taken.
Britain has an advantage here over Italy and Greece. As Daily Mail/Telegraph critiques of UK civil servants gold plating EU legislation makes clear, the British government tends or at least is more likely to be believed when it says that it will do something. By contrast, whereas the fiscally fucked Italian and Greek governments may be voting on however many austerity packages, a general view is simply aye right and we’ll believe it when tax dodging stops being a national past time.
Now, how appointing a technocrat will resolve that kinda ingrained, institutionalised, common-sense, mindset shit is beyond me given the nature of the political process. Like when a technocrat says raise taxes 20% who gives a fuck if the tax collectors choose to take a bribe instead regardless.
And resolving THAT kind of serious shit requires a clear, grown up view of politics which is that it’s not about technical competency, rather the art of the possible is about marshalling vested interests and interest groups, using patronage and bureaucratic power and authority. Now whereas a Vladimir Putin might say that, Sir Howard politely chose not to.
Alternatively, the approach being taken here is put in place some technocratic patsies who can in turn be blamed for taking nasty decisions no one likes so they can be voted out in due course (see, see, you threat to democracy fucktards?). Except, again that doesn’t matter if the implementation is a joke. But, if that is the case, then it fails to recognise that for patronage i.e. politics, to work you need to know the patron will still be there in a coupla years to hand out the patronage gravy, otherwise why do what he says?
Anyhoo, to summarise, the technocrats now being installed appear pretty shite on technical and moral grounds, we’re getting fed shite as to what them being appointed means, its not clear that the institutionalised issues underlying specific nation state problems are actually being addressed, appointing a technocrat has no impact whatsoever in itself on the fundamental role vested interests have in politics and how cool, being a blerk, must it have been to go to a Bunga Bunga party?
A wee P.S. here is provided by the Italian government’s latest debt sale. So there was me pointing out the difference between implied yields and reality in response to people going on about Italy having to pay more than 7%. Turns out they haven’t had to pay more than 7% after all. Boo, what a dull headline.
Plus, what does that say about the efficacy of markets given the above questions that can be raised about the technocrats who are otherwise being used to justify the reduction in borrowing costs? (here's a clue - that the people pricing this shit are stupid cunts for the most part who should be held at a remove from important decisions or anything that can impact government policies)