Beware the ‘Well-Educated Technocrats’
Technocrat. The word itself is ugly. It sounds like a madman in a lab coat concocting computerized weapons. Or maybe some steely, leggy, proboscis-covered beetle that eats your tomato plants.
But it’s actually worse. It’s a real and growing fixture in American government, and it is implementing an agenda that should alarm us all.
The Trumpet staff got a valuable peek at Washington’s inner workings October 31, when Congressman James Lankford gave an outstanding, and sobering, legislative update at Armstrong Auditorium.
Lankford represents Oklahoma’s fifth district in the U.S. House. One particularly chilling statement he made stood out to me. It was about technocrats. It rang true because of a slew of recent headlines and events. And it is all the more disturbing because of some history I’ve had my nose in of late.
He quoted Cass Sunstein, who headed the Office of Information Regulatory Affairs—a powerful office that oversees governmental regulations—for most of President Obama’s first term. According to Lankford, Sunstein said that America would be better off run by “a well-educated group of technocrats” rather than through the democratic process.
In other words, so many of the issues facing the country are too complicated for common people to decide. We need a handful of super-smart people to make all the decisions for us.
That is disturbing. Mr. Lankford described a highway-funding bill that came through the House a couple years ago. The technocrats want the federal government to control all the roads—they want to oversee construction all the way from the interstate system to your driveway. That way they can ensure the process complies with their environmental regulations, down to the composition of the pavement that is used. They believe they are the only ones responsible enough to manage such decisions.
Lankford concluded, “That belief is spread across the administration.”
Indeed. The words “well-educated group of technocrats” didn’t come out of the president’s mouth, but they underline so much of what his administration is doing.
Isn’t that what the kerfuffle over Obamacare’s broken promise “if you like your plan you can keep your plan” is all about? The administration now says the promise didn’t apply to “substandard” healthcare plans. What is “substandard”? Only the technocrats know.
These technocrats are convinced they have the ability to successfully run the insurance business, health care, the energy sector, car manufacturing, banking, home mortgages, and a growing list of other mammoth, complex industries. No problem is beyond their capacity to solve. They are issuing edicts, handing down regulations, taking on new projects and gobbling up the private sector at an unprecedented rate. All told, government spending now accounts for nearly half of the total U.S. economy.
These are the people who believe that monitoring the digital communications of all citizens is essential. They believe we’re only safe if they are the only ones with guns.
“I have heard over and over again that the problems that exist in the economy are not that the federal government has too much power, it’s that they don’t have enough,” Mr. Lankford said. “If they only had more authority to make the complete decision, it would go better.”
If only they had more authority.Where is the evidence? What proof do these well-educated technocrats have of their own capabilities? Right now, the big joke in America is that over $100 million in federal money couldn’t buy a functional website.
But how can failures ever teach the technocrats anything if the only lesson they come away with is that they simply don’t have enough power yet?
They have a “just trust us” disposition. “We have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it,” they said about Obamacare. It forcefully brings to my mind the wisdom of Jeremiah 17:5: “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.”
I’m familiar with the word technocrats because of Ron Fraser. For years he wrote in the Trumpet about how the European Union government was crawling with them—unelected, unaccountable individuals, deeply persuaded of their own sagacity and magnificence, who justify their existence by regulating the minutia of other people’s lives, expanding government and amassing power almost imperceptibly, incrementally, guideline by guideline, footnote by legalistically written footnote.
This is a well-worn road to catastrophe. History is littered with the wrecks of societies run by such powerful, self-delusional people.
Pardon the historical allusion—it will sound extreme. But Stalin and his technocrats were so convinced of their own wisdom that they imprisoned and murdered untold millions of their own people trying to realize their vision. “Power is a poison well known for thousands of years,” wrote Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who knows a bit about the fallibility of technocrats after spending 11 years in the gulags. “[T]o the human being who has faith in some force that holds dominion over all of us, and who is therefore conscious of his own limitations, power is not necessarily fatal. For those, however, who are unaware of any higher sphere, it is a deadly poison. For them there is no antidote.”
That is what is perhaps most alarming about watching the steady, inexorable expansion of power that America’s highest officials are gleefully helping themselves to at the expense of our freedoms. One gets no sense that there is anything restraining them—no humility, no awareness of their own limitations, no answerability to anyone other than themselves.
Power without accountability is deadly. The human heart is simply too puffed up, too susceptible to vanity. “Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig,” Solzhenitsyn wrote.
It has been a tremendous asset to America that its founders understood the dangers of unaccountable power. Thankfully, they engineered the government with robust checks and balances squarely aimed at restraining well-educated technocrats.
Sadly, it is these very restraints that the current administration feels obliged by virtue of its own brilliance to ignore, bulldoze and demolish.