Bring on the Engineers

Bring on the Engineers

Engineers, . Govt., too Important to Leave to Politicians: Bring on the Engineers?

I expect to see the State, which is in a position to calculate the marginal efficiency of capital-goods on long views and on the basis of the general social advantage, taking an ever greater responsibility for directly organizing investment.

– John Maynard Keynes

Abraham Lincoln has famously defined democracy as “government for the people, by the people, through the people”. Political scientists call government for the people output-legitimacy. It justifies technocratic governments as long as they improve collective welfare, because citizens will approve the results. Government by and through the people is called input-legitimacy, because through their vote in democratic elections the majority of citizens who are affected by their policies give governments the authority to implement collective choices in accordance with their will and preferences.

Full democracy requires both: input and output legitimacy. For over 150 years, social democrats have understood that a free and fair society is only possible if every citizen has a vote.

1. No money in politics (China)
2. No lies or special interests in media (Singapore)

Can We Afford Politicians Any Longer?

Other than as an expensive employment program for sociopaths, the political class is obsolete.

When princes’ realms expanded beyond their personal ability to administer (i.e., collect taxes) they became kings and, later emperors who hired professional bureaucrats to handle the administration.

As time went by the bureaucrats found that they did not need the kings and emperors and so did away with them as an unnecessary expense.

But someone was needed to interface between the real owners, the bureaucrats, and the common people. That someone would have to be capable of seeming to care about the people’s needs without, of course, upsetting the real owners of everything.

And so ‘politicians’ were born: professional dissimulators whose role it is to lubricate the grinding heels of the mummers

With apologies to Clemenceau, we in the West have passed the point where amateur government works. Indeed, it may never have worked, but its failures were disguised by our access to cheap energy and oppressed labor.

It has landed us in a lot of trouble.

China is becoming “the world’s most rent-free economy” and if the CCPC does not incarnate Thorsten Veblen’s complementary hopes for ‘the rise of the engineers’? There are several supports for my suspicion:

Sun Yat Sen wrote in 1922: “I intend to make all the national industries of China into a Great Trust owned by the Chinese people, and financed with international capital for mutual benefit.”

Though Sun was not a Party member, he was and is an acknowledged founder of modern China who strongly influenced and inspired Mao and the others. The CCP, as a post-revolutionary government, had a free hand in redesigning the economy from scratch. Sun’s visionary statements had been imprinted on their young minds.

Before Deng launched his opening up to Capitalism he and others conducted a thorough investigation of what they were getting into (and discussed their conclusions very publicly with the people: “When you open the windows, some flies get in”).

Being great consulters of archives, I suspect that the Chinese consulted the West’s heterodox texts, like Patten’s, and explored the roads we in the West had not taken. They also had extensive visits and discussions with thoughtful types like Lee Kuan Yew, an old Fabian Socialist.

This latter hypothesis was strengthened when I heard Chinese PM Wen questioned by Fareed Zakaria about Mill’s “invisible hand”. Mr. Wen countered by quoting, extempore, at length from ‘The Theory of Moral Sentiments’–a heterodox text in the West and much more pertinent than the oft-misapplied “hand”.

Veblen’s utopian-rationalist vision, ‘The Engineers and the Price System’, would have been equally appealing and seems to have been incarnated by the CCPC, since eight engineers comprise the Standing Committee and are known for their honesty, competence, and rationality.

The Chinese are notoriously averse to wasting money for any purpose and ‘rent’ is a waste that the Part founders knew intimately and explicitly rejected. China’s banks are therefore quasi-public utilities, as are all strategic industries. Its land leased to individuals.

Finally, a recent quote that reflects the tone of the Chinese Government’s approach: “A neutral government shaping national consensus.”. –The China Wave: the Rise of the Civilizational State. Zhang Weiwei.

Abraham Lincoln has famously defined democracy as “government for the people, by the people, through the people”. Political scientists call government for the people output-legitimacy. It justifies technocratic governments as long as they improve collective welfare, because citizens will approve the results. Government by and through the people is called input-legitimacy, because through their vote in democratic elections the majority of citizens who are affected by their policies give governments the authority to implement collective choices in accordance with their will and preferences.

What do YOU think?

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