Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The name doesn't in fact refer to government by machine, but by experts (Greek τέχνη "craft, skill" + κράτος "government"). Basically the idea is that rulers should be selected on merit in their own field. This doesn't happen at the moment; the only skill required of a leader is public relations, and the only ability required of a minister is the ability to be selected for the post by one's party. That and loyalty to the party in the first place.

I'm not in favour of technocracy as a sole means of government, but it does need to play a more prominent part. Why are medical practitioners answerable to a Minister for Health whose qualifications are in Law? Why have our last two state Premiers been schoolteachers? Why have we got a rock star heading the Education department?! Sure, plenty of his songs were political, but they ran the gamut of ideologies from workers' rights and socialised healthcare to property-rights libertarianism — hardly consistent.

We could even have a thoroughly democratic system, yet ensure our leaders were competent in their fields by imposing certain restrictions on who could hold what offices. The education minister, for example, could be required to have no less than five years' teaching experience, ending no more than five years ago. The health department could similarly be restricted to someone with a doctor's (or perhaps nurse's) qualifications, with similar experience restrictions. The question then is what happens when no qualified person is elected as a representative; but I envision this sort of technocratic cabinet being selected entirely separately from the ordinary democratic parliament, and from outside the party system to boot — you could only stand for a cabinet position if you were qualified. We want department leaders who'll implement what policies are best for their field, rather than toeing the party line.

The other requirement, I think, should be to make leadership a thankless job. To lead should be to serve. A local representative ought to serve the interests of his area, not those of his party. A party representative, conversely, should stick to his party line (as laid out prior to his election) regardless of his personal views; if he disagrees with the party he should stand down from both it and his seat. To this end, there should be separate roles for local and party representatives — a house of representatives with single-member local electorates, and a party house elected by the whole country on a similar preference system to our present Senate.

A technocrat should act with the sole objective of making his area of expertise as efficient and effective, and as great a public good, as it can be. Personality should be irrelevant. Popularity should be irrelevant — this is another reason I'd like to see a technocratic cabinet removed from parliament. The pay and perks of such a position should be no greater than the member's qualification and experience ought to entitle him to; he should want the job not to better himself but his country, and he (like a local representative) should be barred from membership in any party or ideological organisation.

I've actually thought out this sort of system in more detail than this and will probably publish those details here at some point.

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