Friday, July 13, 2012

The Divine Right of Technocrats

Bit of a rant today.

The history of ("well known"***) philosophy is basically a history of apologetics.  From Socrates to Augustine, to Jean Bodin, Hegel, Rawls, et al.  Philosophy has always been a warm and inviting home to those who would legitimize the current form of rule, whatever its form.

The Divine Right of Kings ("DROK") was one of the more silly episodes in the history of power.

The DROK's basic premise was (and likely will be once more) that God has given sovereign powers on earth to a certain set of people.  These people then rule unencumbered by accountability, oversight, or limitation.

It guarantees massive excesses and basically commits entire nations to the particular whims of people who do not experience chastening or emotional discipline.

Today, there is this fascination with Technocratic skill.  Jean Bodin would be pleased to note the dominance in his native France of the Grand Ecole's on its political say nothing of the reverence we in the U.S. hold for the various government agencies, bureaus, boards, and commissions that monotonically wave from rule to decision.

This "Divine Right of Technocrats" ("DROT") derives its legitimacy from competitive education.  The problem, as is often the case with these forms, is one of scale.

An intensely competitive, disciplined environment is excellent for, say, Medicine, where the problems are more tractable and the patient is a singular being.  The problems of society and its formation are of an entirely different character than illness or injury.

And yet, society simply believes that these "well qualified" people can solve problems in the same fashion merely because of credentials.

So we live in the age of the DROT.  It likely won't last long in historical terms.

***I think philosophy, much like art, suffers from "popularity" bias: the random fashions and tastes of the age determine what is "good" and "bad" art/philosophy/literature/music, etc.  To the extent that there are other countervailing examples in the age, they are relegated to the dustbin of history.  Historians of philosophy and economics often find that their "new" ideas are not new...they were only unpopular in previous epochs.

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