cj#328> Yves: Democracy, technocrats & things…


Richard Moore

Date: Tue, 28 Mar 1995
From: LECLERC YVES <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Democracy, technocrats & things...
To: Charles Stewart <•••@••.•••>
Cc: Mark Stahlman <•••@••.•••>, •••@••.•••,
        •••@••.•••, Yves Leclerc <•••@••.•••>,

Sorry to barge in, folks, but since you mention (and nearly quote) me, I
feel the need to set things right a bit.

This is what I am referring to:
>       The only explicit proposal I've seen is from Yves Leclerc and it
>is centered on the need for "technocrats" to manage society.  He wants
>to be able to "fire" them but then he winds up with a complex
>corporate structure which is, IMHO, tyrannical on it's face.
        I have not had the pleasure of becoming intimately acquainted with
Mr. Lecleric's works. And there are diverse theories among our camp as
to which structure for our democratic machine is optimal. The machine
which will be fired up will be the first one which can stand on it's
own 2 feet and move without falling apart. It'll get better quickly.
        And I am sure I could gain much knowledge from Mr. Lecleric
concerning many aspects of democratic studies which I am not familiar
with. But his proposition that we need "technocrats" to manage society
(if that is an accurate quote, and I have no reason to believe
otherwise) is (imho) seriously less than optimal. I don't think he
could get a majority to approve his machine.

It is true that the somewhat utopian model of a political system for the
Information Age I am working on includes a "technocratic government", but
it is not the centrepiece of the thing, only one of five "cogs" which I
think are all needed to make a workable engine. They are:

1 - A technocratic government of managers who, instead of being elected,
can be hired and fired, just like any other managers. Why? Because if we
don't elect them, they have no legitimacy they can cling to long after
they have become ineffective or useless. If we elect them, we give them
the power. If we just hire them, we keep it for ourselves. And we can
also select the most competent, instead of the most popular -- there is
quite a difference!

2 - Direct democracy, meaning major decisions are made directly by the
body of citizens, either by traditional or electronic vote, by mediated
consensus (through various intermediate bodies such as unions,
professional groups, social or cultural associations, etc.), by randomly
selected "political juries", or by deliberative public polls. Take your
pick, or use all these methods according to circumstances.

3 - A "Senate of the wise", the members of which are elected (or drawn by
lot, it doesn't make much difference) among a restricted list. It would
hire the senior technocrats, inject a bit of humanity in their workings
and serve as a "damping mechanism" for the decisions of direct democracy,
which can be hasty and emotional at times; it would have the power to
delay the effect of these decisions for a while, or even to send them back
to a vote. The criteria for eligibility to this Senate are:
 a. Age: enough to have experience and wisdom, say 45 for the sake of
 b. Public service: some years (5? 10?) in the army, the civil service,
unions, social groups or any organization deemed of civic value (could
even be a Church, though I, being an atheist, have doubts about this).
 c. Published or widely known and publicly expressed opinions about the
needs and orientation of society.

4 - A universal, probably free (at least at the basic access level), public
electronic communication network used to inform the citizens, get their
opinions and let them monitor constantly the actions of technocrats and
civil servants. If you are going to have electronic democracy, the means
for it can no more be put in the hands of profit-minded private
corporations than can the control of an election or the judicial process.

5 - A fairly independent and objective information system, to give
citizens a sound basis on which to make their decisions. Else (and
Stahlman is right on this, though on little else IMHO) direct or
participatory democracy can be little more than demagogy. FAQs maintained
by technical experts and supervised by the Senate could be one of the
forms this takes.

I'm not proposing that we implement this tomorrow. In fact, I'm not even
pretending that this is the best we could do. But I do think it constitutes
a workable system, which (without elections) could be more "democratic"
than what we now have. It seems to put forward a number of new or renewed
ideas and could be the basis for a wider-ranging and more imaginative
debate about the future of politics in the Information Age than what we
have seen up to now.

You can always pick it to pieces, or disagree with it wholesale. Please
just refrain from selecting one of its cogs and misrepresenting it as the
whole machine.

For instance, technocratic managers without direct democracy are clearly
dangerous (we have them now, don't we), but so is direct democracy without
a decision-support type of information system and a damping mechanism such
as the (admittedly somewhat elitist) Senate -- the idea for which, by the
way, comes from African tribal and Canadian Native People customs. And a
pay-for-use universal communications grid carrying only commercial
transactions (such as the proposed NII and GII) is of little social
interest and can even serve to increase the gulf between the rich and the
poor (in both money and information), and thus social unrest and political

Comments, anyone?

Yves Leclerc


 Posted by      Richard K. Moore <•••@••.•••>
                Wexford, Ireland (USA citizen)
                Editor: The Cyberjournal (@CPSR.ORG)

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