Because of the seriousness of the challenges facing Italy, there is little hope outside of turning to experts. The long-term prospects for this apolitical group of academics and business leaders are questionable, primarily because such an approach to governance stands in contrast to the electoral realities for a democracy and its political parties. But for the time being, these leaders are viewed as saviors from a system fraught with political jockeying that, in many ways, has led to this precipice. The Telegraph's Christopher Booker writes that the EU's plan all along was not democracy but rather technocracy. He writesMr. Monti said he hoped the new government could restore market confidence and soothe a tense political climate. “We worked seriously and paid close attention to the quality of the choices,” he said at a news conference. He added that he had been encouraged by Italy’s European partners and the international community and that the rapid formation of the government would relieve the pressure of markets on Italy.The ministers are drawn mostly from Italy’s academic world, some with strong ties to the Catholic Church, but also banking and the upper echelons of civil service.
Phillip Oltermann of The Guardian collects a good number of articles that point towards a technocracy model of governance in the EU.One of the few pleasures of watching this self-inflicted shambles unfolding day by day has been to see the panjandrums of the Today programme, James Naughtie and John Humphrys, at last beginning to ask whether the EU is a democratic institution. Had they studied the history of the object of their admiration, they might long ago have realised that the “European project” was never intended to be a democratic institution.The idea first conceived back in the 1920s by two senior officials of the League of Nations – Jean Monnet and Arthur Salter, a British civil servant – was a United States of Europe, ruled by a government of unelected technocrats like themselves. Two things were anathema to them: nation states with the power of veto (which they had seen destroy the League of Nations) and any need to consult the wishes of the people in elections.As Richard North and I showed in our book The Great Deception, this was the idea that Monnet put at the heart of the “project” from 1950 onwards, modelling his “government of Europe” on precisely the same four institutions that made up the League of Nations – a commission, a council of ministers, a parliament and a court. Thus, step by step over decades, Monnet’s technocratic dream has come to pass.
Another article comes from The Economist with the appropriate title, "Have PhD, will govern," touching on the appointment of academic economists in Italy and Greece and the shift in contemporary politics to think about new approaches to paralytic stalemates in national political systems. The articles goes on to talk about the unique nature of the "super committee" currently facing a looming deadline here in the United States. The author put it this way:
To quote from The Economist:
This brief reference back to the 1930s is an important nod because technocracy and technocratic approaches to governance helped to shape much of the thinking during that period. John Jordan's Machine-Age Ideology provides a glimpse into that period. The positive view of technocracy faded in the United States, but, as Oltermann of The Guardian noted
Today, we can see nations wrestling with daunting challenges. We are included in this list. But what are we to think of an embrace of "apolitical" political actors. I realize technocrats aren't popularly elected like our democratic leaders, but we would be wrong to think they exist outside of the political world in which they live and work. It seems to me that maybe we need to look at this issue in this way.
- We need to explain what we mean when we say "political" or "politicians." We are political animals, and I think we do a injustice to the term when we only use it as a derogatory term about elected officials. Being political can (and I would argue, should) be a positive characteristic of citizens.
- The role of the expert needs to be understood in a way that positions them as political actors in relationship with elected officials as well as ordinary citizens. There is a benefit to sidestepping the debacle that is the Congress, but democracy doesn't have to mean impasse or partisanship.
These two points are not simple. Changing such large issues isn't even feasible. But if we just ignore them, then I would submit that we're only going to find ourselves facing issues much like we are today. And while we may think we're living through a very extreme time, I would venture a guess that having elected officials so closely aligned with bug business and big money will continue to block an honest discussion and debate about how we might, collectively, work through some of these very serious and pressing issues. There is a role for the citizen in all of this, as well as the elected official and the technocrat. Finding that balance, however, requires considerably more work.