The Council of 12 (Co12) has governed Britain for 33 years—after decades of chronic crisis, Parliament and the old bureaucracy were dissolved and replaced with a twelve-man governing council drawn from techno-scientific fields. Since then, Britain has gone from strength to strength and “the new technocracy” has become a model for the world—with visitors from China to America keen to learn from the British experience. It’s guaranteed high-IQ government—as reliable and consistent as the way your iPad boots every morning with a feather-light touch from your thumb.
This idea appeals to the right, appeals because the right is associated with masculine objectivity and that objectivity is instantiated in science and technology today—hence the endless refrain “do STEM” from conservatives. However, technocracy is based on deceptive elision: it’s based on the conceit that since a technician can make an iPad that boots in a consistent and flawless way, he can do the same for government. Yet government is not a specific technical system: it’s a system of systems—and that system of systems is totally dynamic.
If we take No. 4 on Co12: he was an aeronautical engineer, but now he doesn’t make technical decisions about sub-systems on a 777—as Home Minister he has to make decisions about nurseries and police forces. It’s not the same as the reliable and consistent sub-system he was an expert in at the Boeing sub-section in Britain.
Hence what technocracy really says is that “the techno-scientific sensibility” is best fitted to govern society. However, the techno-scientific sensibility or thought process is not the same as the concrete activities associated with technical and scientific work. To apply the sensibility is actually an art—so it’s a trick technocrats play on you, they tell you they’ve applied techno-science to government and so ride on the prestige associated with a 777 but in fact they’re still engaged in an art.
Technically, since they want the extract “the thought of thought” in techno-science (metacognition), the technocrat is involved in philosophy—we thought about thought and what we thought is that the thought process found in techno-science should be applied to government. Hence government is always also a philosophical activity, not unconnected to the question as to what thought process is best applied where.
The sincere technocrat would be the first to admit that the life of the state is too complex to be reduced to the consistent patterns found in an aircraft sub-system. To be trained on that sub-system in no way means you will run the state well, even if the metacognition involved can also apply to the state—you might as well say that a disciplined and brilliant pianist (also high IQ) should run the state, since the music he plays is beautiful (people don’t say that because they value the acquisitiveness found in techno-science, not the beauty found in music). And yet why not apply musical brilliance to the state as much as the brilliance found in the maintenance routine on a 777?
A technocrat might retort that with cybernetics we now have a scientific way to express the “system of systems”, the science of living organisms—the science of command and control. After all, Mao was known as “the great helmsman” and “cybernetics” derives from the Greek for “steersman” or “helmsman”—cybernetics is the science of government, the system of systems. The left shares this vision, with much respect for the Stafford Beers “Cybersyn” system in Allende’s Chile (as pictured below, government by Star Trek)—an economic coordination system used to help break a trucker strike that threatened pro-Communist Allende (shades of Justin Trudeau and the Canadian truckers). Cybernetics can favour the actual “great helmsman” as much as an ultra-efficient free-market system.
Yet a pianist at his ivories is also involved in a cybernetic feedback loop—so can cybernetics tell us that the pianist loop is better than an in-flight OODA loop? Only if we assume that the organism’s purpose is survival at any cost—the quantitative Darwinian assumption (the more offspring, the better). What if the superior harmony found in the piano piece can change reality as much as a 777 sub-system? The assumption in modernity is that it does no such thing—that’s why you should “do STEM”, do something useful, do something acquisitive.
What is the “system of systems” in government—philosophy, the harmonious and rhythmic balance achieved through superior intuition; the injunction found in Goethe’s alchemical thought to find the “elective affinities” between qualities. We have only spurned government in this manner because we are dominated by greedy, ugly, and acquisitive people and their restless deracinated mindset—only a philosopher-king can restore balance.