Recovering the Promise of Technocracy

Instead of obsessing about the degeneration of democracy at the hands of demagogues, we must define a form of government that can address the grievances that have fueled populism's rise. Such a system should combine the virtues of democracy – that is, voter input – with the utilitarianism and realism of genuine expertise.

SINGAPORE – The prevailing mood nowadays is one of pessimism. After a year in which Donald Trump was elected President of the United States and the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union, many are anticipating more populist victories – and damaging policies – in 2017. Add to this slow global economic growth and rising geopolitical tensions, and it is easy to conclude that the world is headed down the same path of nationalism and protectionism that sparked World War I.

But this misses the point. The rise of populism is merely a symptom of political leaders’ failure to address voters’ economic grievances. Instead of obsessing about the degeneration of democracy at the hands of political leaders who cannot fulfill their promises to frustrated voters, we must define a better form of government that can address those grievances. I propose a direct technocracy.

As I explain in my new book Technocracy in America, a direct technocracy would ensure that regular public consultation shapes decision-making by committees of accountable experts. This approach combines the virtues of direct democracy with the benefits of meritocratic technocracy, which leverages data to make long-term, utilitarian decisions. Simply put, a direct technocracy marries good ideas and efficient execution.

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