January 27, 2023

“Technocracy vs Democracy” – There’s a distinction between the two?! Why do we vote again?

When I moved to Athens I became political, in a curious rather than knowledgeable sort of way. It’s difficult not to when you’re left weeping in a changing room stall after walking past the government building. I’m not the most emotional of sorts normally but the volume of tear gas released in that square the day before will have that effect on a man. I watched and learned as the financial black hole swelled to the tune of civil unrest and anarchism before my unseasoned eyes. I walked through rallies and spoke to as many people who could speak to me in English about the situation they felt they were in. Words like ‘crisis’ and ‘corruption’ were on everybody’s lips and here – compared to back home in my native Britain – their meanings were much more salient. However, ‘confusion’ was added to the subversive palette when Papandreou, then PM of this beautiful leper, made a mistake my 4 year old niece would have derisively tutted at. ‘Securing’ bail-out money from the EU then putting membership of that institution – and thereby the necessity to pay the money back – to a referendum which would have been a foregone conclusion is bad enough, but the sheer idiocy of calling for the referendum before the money was in the bank was jaw-dropping. Soon enough the White Fool was ousted from position and a new form of government took over: technocracy.

My Greek isn’t the finest but the general meaning of the word seemed quite obvious to this layman. Techni = skill, Cratos = power. Power goes to the skilled people as opposed to the people (Demos) … people. Of course the grumblings of ‘not-elected’ and ‘inexperienced’ ensued and I started to question my understanding of this compound nomenclature. Surely, there couldn’t be a difference between people we elect to power and the people who are skilled in concepts, such as say, economics? “Oh how wrong you are, naive little Briton!” People were unhappy that the likes of Papademos in Greece and Monti in Italy weren’t elected … rather than the fact that the very people they had elected ‘called in the experts’ when the problem got out of hand. Mind-blowing!


Hobson’s Choice

It’s as if the people of any country are in charge of a big corporate business and we’re not too bothered who is in power as long as we were (mock) consulted about it in the process. In Democracy PLC, we’re hiring – not electing – PR men and women to do the jobs of accountants, sociologists and doctors. To tell us what we want to hear then take our abuse when they fall short on their promises for the world.

Democracy is a choice, admittedly, but it’s Hobson’s choice. We’re offered the choice of a select pool of politicians chosen by another pool of politicians. The equivalent, if you will permit me, is clear in the following hypothetical situation:

Citizen A: I need a plumber!

Citizen B: Right, ok. Well we have a philosopher, a historian and an English literature graduate.

Citizen A: But I need someone with plumbing experience.

Citizen B: Ah, experience. Right. Well, the historian has had the most showers but the philosopher is likely to understand the deeper significance of the problem at hand.

Citizen A: And the English literature graduate?

Citizen B: Oh … well, he’s a family man.

Absurdity incarnate! Past experience is vital for any job other than politics. In politics, all you need to show is what you voted for in the past! Surely, Economics graduates should deal with money (Mr Osbourne); History and Philosophy graduates should deal with culture; and Politics graduates should be kept at arm’s length until they have demonstrated empirical evidence for possessing a soul.


A gap-year to a Mission in Africa does NOT count.


Vote for me! Why? Well, because he’ll raise taxes!

Answering questions with questions, or accusations of what fellow MP’s won’t do rather than what they will, is the order of the day. Whole-heartedly attacking – though deliberately just short of slander – ‘the opposition’ across benches makes for a winning candidate in the British Houses of Parliament. They sign up to either the left or the right and stick to those ideologies through thick, thin and bi-partisan. Chris Rock, the American comic, pointed out just how ridiculous this system of government is. He puts it best:

“Everybody’s so busy wanting to be down with the gang.”I’m conservative”, “I’m liberal”, “I’m conservative”. Bullsh*t! Be a f*cking person! Lis-ten! Let it swirl around your head. Then form your opinion. No normal, decent person is one thing, okay? I’ve got some sh*t I’m conservative about, I’ve got some sh*t I’m liberal about. Crime, I’m conservative. Prostitution, I’m liberal!”

When you set up a representative government based on the system of there being two teams that are supposed to represent a mythical dichotomy of human society then what you’re left with is a Government filled with sycophantic crooks. A sanctioned Mafia extolling ‘family values’ in a ‘holier than thou’ manner, while bending over backwards in the same direction for every decision so as to keep the paycheques regular. Maybe, just maybe, we’d do better to have an elected group according to skill sets rather than smiles?


“Now everybody, raise your hands if …”

Last November, in his piece in The Guardian, Terry Eagleton seemed to have entirely missed the point. I was devastated because New Humanist had recently informed me that he was my kind of opinionated ‘voice of reason.’ Practically told me I wasn’t allowed to read their editions anymore because of it! Yes Churchill was right to say that giving people the power to elect their leaders was the best political idea to date. No argument there. Go Democracy! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that he would have advocated Papandreou or Berlusconi, or liken an economic expert to a dim-witted mechanic trying to launch a V10 engine with paper wings into the air, does it? Surely something’s amuck with that line of ‘representative democracy’?

Plato, the go-to-guy for every political optimist and champion of ‘reason’ for the past two thousand years, proffered an alternative to the fledgling democracy he’d already begun to see the cracks in. It seems he wasn’t so optimistic after all since he spotted that even philosophers are human and likely to take a bung if they’re given total control instead of the people. His solution? Educate the people! If they have the vote then bally-well give them the means to do so for their own good!

In its original form, Democracy was simply a show of hands. Aside from this being implausible today there would be no point in having referendums for every political matter anyway; that would defeat the purpose of hiring … sorry … electing experts in the first place. But voting for those experts to have positions of power, according to educated understandings of skill-sets and previous experience, is most definitely a worthy goal to aim for. Wouldn’t you say?

Without educating people about the actualities of politics then what you’re left with is … well … the Tory-LibDem coalition. Born from a disinterested, disgruntled populace, from the onset Nick Clegg was hailed as ‘muzzle’ to David Cameron’s “Conservative Rottweiler.” And since then he has shown an exceptional ability at embodying a mute-muzzle fashioned from the finest cuts of matured venison.

If the Demos has an idea of whom and what it’s voting to represent them then they’ll be able to be governed by a system perhaps finer – blasphemy! – than democracy. A political meritocracy of sorts with a reasoned system of checks and balances seems, to me anyway, worth a rethink of the incumbent system! Today, I’m actually beginning to feel somewhat sorry for the unelected technocrats. Theirs is the unhappy task of sorting out the mess corruption got whole countries into whilst never having prepared the Teflon-Kevlar skin politicians spend their lives cultivating. But who am I? I’m just a lowly teacher looking down at the black hole of Democracy exactly where it started two-thousand years ago. Funny old world isn’t it?

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