Arnold Kling mentions a Brad DeLong post calling for technocracy that I've been meaning to post on. Brad writes (and has written similar things in the past):
"And it took me only two months--two months!--to conclude that America's best hope for sane technocratic governance required the elimination of the Republican Party from our political system as rapidly as possible.
Nothing since has led me to question or change that belief--only to strengthen it."
"DeLong's dream of technocratic governance is some people's nightmare. I think the solution is what in the widely-unread Unchecked and Unbalanced I call Virtual Federalism. That is, we allow people to choose their virtual state, regardless of where they live. My neighbor could choose sane technocratic governance. I could choose minimal government. My neighbor and I would need to have a common defense policy and a common foreign policy, just as in the original federalism. But for many policies, my neighbor and I could have different government. For example, my neighbor's government can try to make a Medicare Ponzi scheme last. My government would instead limit government support to vouchers for the very poor and the very sick."
I think they're both right. One of the things that I've been meaning to write in response to DeLong's technocrat dreams is to say that I want a technocracy without the technocrats. I want a democracy that is educated well enough and structured well enough to act like a technocracy and to elect technocrats (or at least other educated liberals who will appoint technocrats to key posts). And I'm not a pessimistic guy - I think we've managed to do that decently well. We'll probably do it better in the future, but we've had a pretty good run in this country, and a lot of it has been due to reasonable, relatively non-ideological (compared to other places around the world), evidence-based policy making. Of course this sounds strange when you focus in on our experiences too closely, but when you think about the scope of human history we've actually done an impressive job.
And of course regular readers know that Kling's call for federalism and local experimentation is one I heartily endorse. Unlike some deductionists out there, I don't think multi-term Congressmen from Texas can derive the right path on all policies from a priorism and old treatises. To a large extent we gain knowledge about how to do things by experimenting and exploring different options that seem reasonable. So federalism is absolutely essential to any technocratically oriented policymaking.
Also of interest - Neil Degrasse Tyson was on Bill Maher recently, and at 1:18 of this clip he waxes technocratic, which I found interesting: