The most important book (or booklet) you can read this year about nature of the Expertocracy, and the differences between Expertocracies, is N.S. Lyons’s (sub-optimally named) The China Convergence, a meaty work in line with Burnham’s The Managerial Revolution and
The Machiavellians and Francis’s Leviathan and Its Enemies.
It’s free and online and if you care anything about the shape of the world, and why to great extent it looks like it does, then you must read it.
Expertocracy is, of course, my word for the managerial society, because I think it better describes the Plague of Experts who rule over us. Our rulers, who are those implement politicians’ desires, call themselves Experts: they do not call themselves managers. But I acknowledge my term is not likely to catch on.
The temptation is to quote great swaths of the book. I’m resisting this temptation the best I can. Which means not very well.
The central message is that “China and the United States are not diverging but converging to become more alike.” And alike in the following sense:
Despite a rhetorical commitment to egalitarianism and “democracy,” the elite class deeply distrusts and fears the people over whom it rules. These elites have concentrated themselves into a separate oligarchic political body focused on prioritizing and preserving their rule and their own overlapping set of shared interests. Wracked by anxiety, they strive constantly to maximize their control over the masses, rationalizing a need to forcefully maintain stability in the face of dangerous threats, foreign and domestic. Everything is treated as an emergency. “Safety” and “security” have become be the watchwords of the state, and of society generally.
If you can’t see this after three years of idiot panic over the coronadoom, you never will. You’ll surrender to each new ratcheting of the fear-wheel. Surrender often enough to this indulgence and you’ll soon find yourself ratting out friends and neighbors—in a vain effort to make yourself feel “safe.”
The question is why. Not why there are so many cowards and effeminates running around; that is too obvious. But why are rulers like this? Lyons notes, correctly, that though there are similarities, we can’t explain everything by the old left-right distinction.
This elite obsession with control is accelerated by a belief in “scientific management,” or the ability to understand, organize, and run all the complex systems of society like a machine, through scientific principles and technologies. The expert knowledge of how to do so is considered the unique and proprietary possession of the elite vanguard. Ideologically, this elite is deeply materialist, and openly hostile to organized religion, which inhibits and resists state control. They view human beings themselves as machines to be programmed, and, believing the common man to be an unpredictable creature too stupid, irrational, and violent to rule himself, they endeavor to steadily condition and replace him with a better model through engineering, whether social or biological. Complex systems of surveillance, propaganda, and coercion are implemented to help firmly nudge (or shove) the common man into line. Communities and cultural traditions that resist this project are dismantled. Harmfully contrary ideas are systematically censored, lest they lead to dangerous exposure. Governing power has been steadily elevated, centralized, and distributed to a technocratic bureaucracy unconstrained by any accountability to the public.
If you haven’t already read Burnham and Francis, Z-man (in a podcast) provides an excellent summary of the origin and growth of managerialism. I mean, how the managerial state, rule by bureaucratic Experts, came to be and spread with such ease. Result is managers, bureaucrats, and Experts face no direct consequences because they do not have direct ownership of anything. They only fail up. As I have said many times, you cannot be fired for being wrong in the right direction. The right direction is that which justifies continuing and increasing Expert rule.
How many got fired, for instance, for their painfully wrong coronadoom predictions and management? Is Janet “Inflation is Transitory” Yellen out on the bread line where she belongs, or is she wrapped in the warm embrace of fellow Experts? Just to name two outrageous examples.
I want to re-emphasize a point I made before. Both China and the USA are Expertocracies, with differences due to culture and history. They are converging in the way Lyons says, and for the reasons just given. But also because of this: science.
Science (and math) is the constant in education across the world, and it takes education to build an Expert. Science as a mandatory element of “higher” education is a recent innovation, a century or so old, paralleling the rise in (ta-da) scientific managerialism.
There is no harm in having everybody know a Truth. But there can be great harm caused by insisting all profess a Falsity. So to the extent the science that is taught everywhere is false or over-certain, there is trouble. We have seen much of this, from masks to “global boiling”, masks, some-women-have-a-penis, etc. But these are all, relatively speaking, small stuff.
There is no greater error in science than scientism, the false belief that science has all the answers. It is scientism that is everywhere taught, and believed. Manageralism, or the Expertocracy, takes scientism as a premise. That premise is the faith Experts have in their credentials are guarantors of Right and Wrong. From scientism proceeds scidolatry, which afflicts the populace, and which breeds more scientism.
To the extent the Expertocracy can be fought or wounded it is in hacking away at scientism.
That is a story for another day. It is best today to read Lyons’s booklet.
Subscribe or donate to support this site and its wholly independent host using credit card click here. Or use the paid subscription at Substack. Cash App: $WilliamMBriggs. For Zelle, use my email: firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include yours so I know who to thank.