The Collapse of the Technocratic World Order

As I read Stephen M. Walt’s post at Foreign Policy:

In Russia, China, India, Turkey, Egypt — and yes, even here in the United States — one sees either resurgent authoritarianism or a yearning for a “strong leader” whose bold actions will sweep away present discontents. According to democracy expert Larry Diamond, “between 2000 and 2015, democracy broke down in 27 countries,” while “many existing authoritarian regimes have become even less open, transparent, and responsive to their citizens.” Great Britain has now voted to leave the EU; Poland, Hungary, and Israel are heading in illiberal directions; and one of America’s two major political parties is about to nominate a presidential candidate who openly disdains the tolerance that is central to a liberal society, repeatedly expresses racist beliefs and baseless conspiracy theories, and has even questioned the idea of an independent judiciary. For those of us committed to core liberal ideals, these are not happy times.For those of us committed to core liberal ideals, these are not happy times.

I was overcome with the feeling that the world had turned upside down.

I agree that mobocracy isn’t the same as a liberal democratic system. By what stretch of the imagination is the UK’s voting to leave the European Union illiberal? The EU is undemocratic, elitist, and, well, German. By what definition of “liberal” is the EU liberal?

“Liberal” is supposed to mean supporting freedom. An undemocratic system of government may be liberal if it acts to support freedom but I see no evidence that’s what the EU is striving to do. Quite to the contrary I think it’s micromanaging governments to suit German preferences, frequently to the benefit of Germany and Germans.

I think the word that Dr. Walt is searching for isn’t “liberal” but technocratic. He’s mourning the loss of an imaginary world, designed by experts on behalf of everybody. What we’ve been approximating is a world designed by experts on behalf of experts and their patrons. That’s not remotely democratic and there’s nothing liberal about it.

Further, I think you can only imagine a rising tide of liberal government if you ignore about half of the world. Is replacing Saddam Hussein with sectarian government a triumph of liberalism? Replacing Moammar Qaddafi with chaos? China is not remotely liberal. Neither is the Hindu nationalism that has emerged in India over the last 35 years. Those are national socialist governments, not liberal ones.

17 comments… add one
  • CStanley Link

    Great post. I think the conflation of “liberalism” with “technocracy” is related to the liberal to progressive shift in US politics. Progressives aren’t classic liberals, and tend to hold technocrats in high regard.

  • Modulo Myself Link

    That’s not remotely democratic and there’s nothing liberal about it.

    True, but it’s hardly more imaginary than the alternatives proposed by a Trump or a Farage. “Let’s return to the idyllic days before liberal technocrats took over–you know, when the common white man was an aristocrat and nobody told anybody what to do! How are we going to back there? Fuck if I know–look, an immigrant!”

  • ... Link

    Independent judiciary? Dem judges just routinely make up shit to support whatever the latest outrage of the month is from the DNC, and Rep judges aren’t much better. (See Posner’s disdain for the Constitution which he swore to uphold.)

    As for the rest: well, let ’em squirm. They’ve been screwing everyone else for decades, now they can start getting some of it back.

    And did you see James Traub’s article?

  • Guarneri Link

    I think your immediately previous post captures it all. A tiny group of elitists who travel in packs, read each other’s stuff, attend each other’s parties, stroke each other’s..well.. and with total disdain for the little guy. Who can be surprised they don’t understand that all do not want to kneel before them?? Does anyone here think Hillary Clinton does not believe she knows what is best for all, and that it just miraculously happens to be what’s best for her?

    How many times have I said this here over the years: who really speaks for the little guy? They don’t reside in Washington.

  • Guarneri Link
  • PD Shaw Link

    Ellipses: “And did you see James Traub’s article?”

    Holly crap, its worse than the Walt piece. It’s the mindlessly self-satisfied versus the bros that have never heard of Foreign Policy magazine, and Foreign Policy wins!!! Godwin’s Law in evidence, but no recognition that the EU is simply widely unpopular.

  • ... Link

    Holly crap, its worse than the Walt piece.

    Increasingly, the people running the show seem like Louis XVI. Not the actual Louis XVI, but Mel Brook’s Louis XVI. I won’t even bother linking to it, as everyone here knows what I mean.


  • ... Link

    Just had some snide little rich shit (unearned wealth from parents, of course) tell me that I need to respect his morality for him wanting to sacrifice MY well-being for some unnamed unknown people in the Third World, and that he should also be extremely well remunerated for it.

    God damn, the older I get, the more I appreciate the “First Against the Wall” mentality of the October Revolution and the French Revolution. (Well, “First Head in the Basket” in the case of the French.)

    Really and truly, forget deporting the illegals. Lets just kill everyone that’s rich, and especially their off-spring. That’ll do the country more good in the long run.

  • Andy Link
  • Guarneri Link


    What? HE should be remunerated?

    Tell him you have seen the light and agree totally. In fact, the plight of the 3rd worlders is so sad and worthy that you need to form an alliance. First he needs to send all his wealth to that worthy cause until his financial situation mirrors yours. Brothers, arm in arm, for the cause you know. Each according to his abilities and all that shit. They all care……….with other people’s money.

  • ... Link

    He’d never agree to give up his mountain bike, Drew.

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