A technocrat is someone who favors the use of scientific, technological, or engineering knowledge and methods to solve problems. Technocracy has been around since the 1930s; it’s a system of governance where people make decisions with technical expertise instead of politicians. It can also be defined as an economic system that regulates production and distribution through direct technical control (setting quotas).
Technocrats believe that if they apply their skills to society’s challenges, they will have more power than those without them. This article explores what technocrat means, examples, notable technocrats figures, and how this governance style works in practice.
The term technocrat was originally coined in France during the late 18th century. The French philosopher and mathematician Marquis de Condorcet (1743- 1794) used it to describe a new breed of experts who would apply their expertise to solving problems rather than ruling over people.
Before too long, technocracy became popular worldwide as an alternative form of governance that removed political tampering from decision-making processes. In America, for example, several groups were lobbying on behalf of this system by 1933; one such group included Technocracy Incorporated – formed in 1932 by M. King Hubbert and Howard Scott – which proposed replacing politicians with engineers based on technical knowledge or scientific methods applied directly to production and distribution decisions.
Technocracy Incorporated’s first proposal for an alternative form of government was the Technet. This involved dividing America into regions. Each region was run by a director and two technical advisors elected to office every four years; these three people represented all areas of knowledge, including social sciences such as politics, economics, and sociology.
Although technocracy never gained popular support in American society as a whole, it has been used in smaller communities – particularly where there is no democracy – due to its perceived benefits over other forms of governance that have led some nations down difficult paths. For example:
– In 1970s Chile, General Pinochet rose to power on military backing (a coup) when he took control of the government and promised to bring in technocracy as a form of governance;
– In Russia, Vladimir Putin is often considered a technocrat because he rose through the ranks through intelligence services. He’s also known for favoring technical experts over career politicians when it comes to making decisions that are beneficial to his country (although some argue that this isn’t true);
– In 2011 Tunisia, Mohamed Ghannouchi was Prime Minister and after Ben Ali fled into exile following protests – which were mainly led by young people who wanted democracy – then Mr. Ghannouchi ran the nation on an interim basis until new elections could be held; however, many believed he should have stepped aside due to linked with Ben Ali’s regime.
– In 2016, The Philippines has elected Rodrigo Duterte as the president who promised to rid the nation’s drug problem by killing addicts and dealers (the majority of whom are poor people); he also brushed off claims that his policies have led to a rise in extrajudicial killings – which is against international law – saying it’s better than being shot dead by drug users.
The technocracy movement reached its peak during World War II when Marshall Plan funds were offered on condition countries agreed to introduce technocracy or aspects thereof; these moves usually involved replacing politicians with experts from different fields such as science, engineering, and economics. These changes often meant appointing directors for each field responsible for overseeing production targets set by engineers. However, it’s important to note that today’s term technocracy is not interchangeable with these historical examples.
Technocrats believe engineers are best-placed to manage a nation because they have more training than politicians and understand production processes; this view was popular during World War II but fell out of favor as people became suspicious about how certain government officials were using their power. As such, many countries went back to democratic forms of governance after the war ended even though several still use aspects of technocracy today – for example: in Japan, which has an advisory body called the Industrial Competitiveness Council (ICC) made up mostly of accountants and business executives rather than politicians – due to its perceived benefits over other forms of rule. In some ways, it can be argued that technocracy is similar to China’s communist party. They both place experts over career politicians when it comes to decision-making.
Famous Examples of Technocrats
1. Benito Mussolini
Many people associate “technocrat” with the 1950s and 1960s, but the term has actually been around for much longer than that! The earliest known use of the word is attributed to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini in 1923. He reportedly told his supporters that he was appointing Giacomo Acerbo as Minister of Transportation because he was “a technical expert.” At that time, technocracy typically referred to an administrative assistant who maintained technical expertise within an organization. It wasn’t until the 1930s and 1940s that technocracy became associated with a political movement and gained negative connotations due to its association with fascism.
2. Walt Disney
In 1941, Walt Disney told an interviewer from the New York Times that he considered himself a technocrat. He was mainly talking about his role as chairman of the California Institute of the Arts. Still, it’s interesting to note that Disney felt connected to this political movement at such an early date!
3. John F. Kennedy
During his presidency in 1961, John F. Kennedy stated that “the world is changing … and we must change with it.” By this time, “technocrat” had become associated with individuals who held management positions in business or government and were concerned with scientific planning. The president also said, “The old order changeth yielding place to new,” indicating that he believed technocrats than members of Congress could better manage society. This idea would later come to fruition with Kennedy’s creation of the Peace Corps in 1961, led by Sargent Shriver (a former Democratic candidate for Vice President).
4. Carl Sagan
Although Carl Sagan is known best as a skeptic and astronomer, he also used his scientific knowledge of astronomy and nuclear physics to influence politics. In a 1994 interview, Sagan stated that at the time, he believed that a technocracy would be the most efficient form of government. However, he did not feel that some current methods of governance were completely terrible either and stated that “the jury is out” on whether or not people should focus on improving their system of government right now. Perhaps he had an idea about how governments in outer space! Of course, Sagan is probably also best known for his role as Dr. Carl “The Science Guy” on PBS’s children’s science show, where he wrote and hosted the series for over 20 years until his death in 1996.
5. Sargent Shriver
Sargent Shriver may have had a career within the Kennedy administration, but he was actually a Republican! He served as the Peace Corps’ first director. He later went on to run Senator George McGovern’s presidential campaign against President Nixon before serving as CEO of the Special Olympics (an organization founded by Eunice Kennedy). In addition to these public service positions, he worked with his wife Eunice Kennedy and Rosemary on mental retardation issues after their own sister, Rosemary, was born with intellectual disabilities. Shriver died in 2011 at the age of 95 while still working with Special Olympics on economic empowerment programs for people with intellectual disabilities.
6. Donald Trump
In 1987, business tycoon and reality television star Donald Trump wrote an editorial for the Washington Post in which he stated, “Some people would say I’m a cockeyed optimist, but I think the United States has a great future if we harness our potential as a nation of technocrats.” In this article, he discussed that school teachers should be paid more and suggested that all government employees receive better paychecks to attract more talent to public service jobs. He also mentioned social issues like homelessness and inner-city crime, which he attributed to inefficient resources and a lack of proper management in the United States. Although it is unclear whether Trump has held on to these views in the 30+ years since this article was published, it does appear that he still believes that business experts can help lead the nation!
7. Newt Gingrich
In 2011, Newt Gingrich discussed his political beliefs and referred to himself as a “classical liberal” (which is basically another word for technocrat), according to an interview with David Sirota in Salon magazine. The former Speaker of the House even claimed that many of those involved in politics do not understand science and technology issues because they come from the humanities rather than STEM fields. He also said that a technocrat could potentially be a better candidate for president than someone with an advanced degree in the sciences because they would know how to manage the budget and handle themselves in foreign affairs. Mr. Gingrich is now known best as a Fox News contributor and has said that he may run for president again in 2016, although so far, he has not announced his candidacy.
8. Joe Manchin
According to MSNBC, West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin recently went on record supporting the idea of a meritocracy, which means that individuals should be selected based on their individual competency or talents rather than social class or wealth. In fact, this practice is often seen within civil service jobs where a person can work their way up from within an organization instead of being elected to a position. Senator Manchin has also supported performance-based incentives in government jobs and said that part of his personal mission is to ensure that the merit system is preserved for future generations. This sentiment may have been fueled by the fact that he was selected into politics directly from his job as Secretary of State, where he held office from 2005-2010. He has stated that he does not support allowing members of Congress to pass legislation about their own branch of government because it could lead down a slippery slope towards corruption.
9. Cory Booker
Cory Booker recently discussed his support for technocracy during an interview with Bloomberg TV on April 29th, 2014 as well! to this recent article, Mr. Booker said that technocracy is “the notion that the most qualified person must be put in charge” (Bloomberg Businessweek). He thinks that society should empower those people with the best qualifications regardless of their background and experiences. This sentiment is just one small part of Booker’s larger platform as he ran for New Jersey Senator, where he won a majority vote on October 16th, 2014.
10. Arnold Schwarzenegger
Last but not least, actor and former Governor of California Arnold Schwarzenegger has also spoken out about his support of the idea of a meritocracy from time to time. In an article published by Slate magazine this fall titled The Crisis in American Meritocracy, Schwarzenegger saw evidence of this meritocracy within his own public service career and stated that he strongly believed that “success in all walks of life should be determined by merit and hard work.” Furthermore, he claimed that the system was flawed because it was not accessible to enough people and said that this is one reason things like free public education are so important. This article by Schwarzenegger may have been in response to an earlier interview with The Atlantic magazine where he discussed his support for greater globalization and its impact on politics and economic development.
1. Technocracy is a system of governance that seeks to identify the most efficient way for society to use resources
2. The technocratic system uses measurements and statistics to determine what needs are being met
3. Advocates of technocracy believe that it can be used to create an equal, prosperous society without poverty or unemployment
4. Critics say that this type of government would violate individual rights by dictating how people live their lives
5. While the idea has been around since the 1930s, it hasn’t gained much traction in mainstream politics partly because some consider it too radical of a change.