N.S. Lyons On The Shape & Trajectory Of The Expertocracy

N.S. Lyons On The Shape & Trajectory Of The Expertocracy

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.

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  1. Michael Dowd

    What all this is coming to is a significant reduction of unneeded population. My guess is the elite expertocracy is in the process of developing toxin for a mass extinction event along with an antidote to protect themselves.

  2. JerryR

    Expertocracy is a red herring.

    Experts are not the problem per se. What is the problem is the lost of the two forces that built the modern world. These are freedom and a common morality provided by Christianity.

    Experts are an assault on both but the real problem is the common person loosing both freedom and morality. And not knowing that this is what is necessary for a thriving world.

  3. M

    Good observation Jerry. Blame Vatican II.

  4. RDittmar

    I really don’t think that the United States and China can converge in any sense of becoming alike. China is an essentially homogeneous society. There’s a smallish number of non-Han minorities that the government pretends to respect, but they’re so small in number that they can be either ignored or imprisoned as the case may be. The United States on the other hand has increasingly become a hodge-podge of mutually antagonistic tribes engaged in a currently low-level zero-sum conflict with one another. I’ll admit that the current United States ruling junta craves the same sort of dictatorial powers that the Chinese government has, but they focus on fanning the flames of inter-tribal conflict instead of trying to corral an essentially homogeneous set of subjects into moving in the same direction. It’s probably more likely that American managerial tyranny results in something that resembles the former Yugoslavia more than the Communist mainland.

  5. Incitadus

    The one silver lining in all this are the legal immigrants from Communist
    and dictatorial countries speaking out publicly about what they, having seen
    it all before, see unfolding here. They are few in number and lack media
    reach but when they speak Americans should listen. Biden’s ‘Little Blue Book’
    is at the printer’s office and being prepared for rollout by 2030.

  6. Chrisy

    “. As I have said many times, you cannot be fired for being right in the wrong direction”

    This seems backwards.

  7. Briggs


    My enemies reversed the order! Fixed.

  8. I will read lyons over the weekend – but want to re-iterate here that your understanding of ‘expertocracy” is among the you things you know, and therefore wrong. Well, actually, it’s wrong because you are confusing the cart for the horse – seeing the forest and the trees but not the topography and climate that make these possible? –

    Specifically the issue isn’t the the use and valuation of expertise per se, it is the use and valuation of expertise in the service of a political dynamic that is at issue. To avoid censors and false claims of risky websites I put a simplified explanation for how this came about at paul530.substack.com. Read that, then add that people acting on a false belief will subvert science to preserve and advance that belief – and that’s where your scientism/expertocracy comes from. Science and the reliance on experts are positives when deployed independently of pre-existing belief, but dangerous and negative when used to advance a falsity.

  9. Cookie

    Have you noticed the mantra of democracy is slipping from the elite vocabulary and more and more distractions are been thrown like red meat to the lions, how more indictments can Trump carry, what woke/freak announcement is next?

    They are losing control of the people who matter, the thinkers, we are in very dangerous waters.

  10. Further..

    Your word “expertocracy” is oxymoronic – if the experts were experts they’d know stuff like “the climate crisis” is political, not science; and the same is true of scientists: those who are scientists know that there is no crisis and those who say there is aren’t scientists (credentials aside their actions/beliefs are counter-factual and any actual scientist would reject any theory whose consequences are false). Thus the Barrington signers are, like judith curry et al, generally both expert in their fields and scientists of one kind or another, but none of those managing the green revolution in any of its forms and emanations are.

    May I suggest, therefore, that rule by people pretending to expertise and/or science to force counterfactual beliefs be called fauxicracy?

  11. NLR

    Rudolf Steiner was rather prescient; he died in 1925, but he had a lot to say about what he called the Ahrimanic: bureaucracy and mechanization. Similar concepts to our expertocracy.

    I agree that some the forces supporting the expertocracy are underlying assumptions, like scientism. Another one is that our current situation was inevitable. It wasn’t. It’s easier to examine the past than predict the future but things didn’t have to be this way. Unfortunately, once you get far enough down the road, it’s a lot harder to get off of it. We just have to do the right thing and get through it.

  12. Uncle Mike

    Experts they are not, but autocrats without a doubt. The government is the enemy. We would not be better served by “real” experts in power — it’s the power that corrupts, the power that makes fools into gods, the power that eats away the soul of the nation. Take away the power and freedom will ring truth.

  13. @Paul Murphy you’re floggin’ a dead horse. There are no real scientists left. Once education became publically funded – i.e. politically funded – they became whores. There have been no significant scientific advances for many decades, probably a hundred years. Up till recently engineering and process improvements in manufacturing were masking that but now thanks to ESG and DIE that’s no longer going to be happening. Science is in no way, shape, or form, capable of extracting meaning. Science is about description not meaning. Expert scientists are still people and it’s their own morality and ethics which determine the meaning they give to their scientific expertise and understanding. After the coof debacle we should be hunting scientific experts down and tarring and feathering them (which by the way is not fatal or injurious, just humiliating, the tar is pine tar which is completely harmless and biodegradable).

  14. Gunther Heinz

    Western manners have long ago adopted the oriental concept of FACE. In the OFFICE you put on the official lie-face of THE PARTY. At the private party with cocktail in hand, you can then put on your party face. The more important you are in THE PARTY, the juicier the SECRETS you can share as truth, at the party. But beware the etiquette of it, or you’ll end up CANCELADO!

  15. re Lyons:

    1 – To understand the behavioral phenomenon Lyons describes at length try this simple social experiment: take a normal, average, unpretentious college grad with some mid level sales or similar job and ask that person to direct people to open parking spaces at some event -e.g. a fundraiser at the local exhibition grounds where severeal acres of parking are likely to be filled. Then have someone drive in, ignore him, and find a space independently. In more than about 70% of trials your mild mannered parking director will have a meltdown – at the very least swearing and gesticulating with joyous abandon.

    2 – to see what’s wrong with his stuff beyond the basic mis-understanding of monkey behaviors notice that only the first of his principles is real, the others reflect lies (e.g. #2 a belief in the perfectability of man) – no progressive believes that: in fact the whole focus on the elite’s role as the parental figure in the relationship contradicts that belief.

    3 – what he sees as the commonalities leading to intellectual merger between Wilson then, and China and the US now is real – but reflects the shared allegiance of leftists/progressives – *isms of most kinds – to feudalism and corresponding opposition to the Christian ideal of – you do you, I’ll do me personal responsibility, not any faith in scientific management.

    4 – not only does he miss the forest for the trees, but he misrepresents science rather badly by applying political labels and values to it. “Scientific management” is not a bad thing; using it to label anti-christian agitation while justifying racist projects like Eugenics is.

  16. @Paul Murphy. Point 4 you’re making moral judgements, science can tell us nothing useful about morality. Whether “scientific management” is good or bad depends on entirely on the circumstances of its use. You give a good example, human breeding could be scientifically managed to “improve” the stock, after all it’s been very successful with animals.

    It seems to me there’s no such thing as science any more only scientism which is plainly unmitigated evil.

  17. Dors

    N.S. Lyons on the expertocracy echoes points made many decades ago, and puts forward a thesis of a Sino-American systemic convergence. It is a good deal right, or so it looks.
    Here is the problematic part:

    “Uprooted, corralled, and hounded, the people are atomized, and social trust is very low.
    At the same time, many citizens automatically assume everything the regime says is a lie. Officialdom in general is a Kafkaesque tragi-comedy of the absurd, something only to be stoically endured by normal people. Yet year by year the pressure to conform only continues to be ratcheted higher…
    Which country does this describe?”

    The US and China… or is it? A recent article in American Affairs Journal looks at public opinion research in China and finds, quote:
    * high level of interpersonal trust
    * high level of political activism
    * high level of government responsiveness


    The obvious objection about reliance on public surveys in a country like China is addressed: something right up your alley. Now, if we assume that that analysis has all gone badly wrong, it’s just impressive how many Westerners in China have come to conclusions like it makes on their own:

    Astute views on major and global historical trends? Good! But, we still need to check the information we use.

  18. @Uncle Mike: Both David Brin and Frank Herbert have made the point that the corrputive nature of power may be less of a problem than just how attractive power is to the easily corrupted.

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