What Is Technocracy?

A technocracy is an ideology or form of government wherein decision-makers are chosen for office based on their technical expertise and background. A technocracy differs from a traditional democracy in that individuals elected to a leadership role are chosen through a process that emphasizes their relevant skills and proven performance, as opposed to whether or not they fit the majority interests of a popular vote. The individuals that occupy such positions in a technocracy are known as 'technocrats.'

An example of a technocrat could be a central banker who is a trained economist who follows a set of rules that apply to empirical data.

Key Takeaways

  • A technocracy is an ideological stance whereby government officials or policymakers, known as technocrats, are chosen due to their technical skills or expertise in a specific domain.
  • Decisions made by technocrats are meant to be based on information derived from data and objective methodology rather than opinion.
  • Critics complain that technocracy is undemocratic and disregards the will of the people.

How Technocracy Works

A politician who is labeled as a technocrat may not possess the political savvy or charisma that is typically expected of people who sway public opinion in favor of electing him or her to a government position. Instead, a technocrat may demonstrate more pragmatic and data-oriented problem-solving skills in the political arena. Technocracy became a popular movement in the United States during the Great Depression when it was believed that technical professionals, such as engineers and scientists, would have a better understanding than politicians regarding the economy's inherent complexity.

Precedents do exist for relying on individuals with specialized expertise for decision-making. Defense measures and policies in government are often developed with considerable consultation with military personnel to provide their firsthand insight. Medical treatment decisions are based heavily on the input and knowledge of physicians, and city infrastructures could not be planned, designed, or constructed without the input of engineers. Although democratically officials may hold seats of authority, most come to rely on the technical expertise of select professionals in order to execute their plans.

Critiques of Technocracy

There has been some criticism leveled at technocratic governments. One complaint is that following such a structure is undemocratic, as it favors and rewards those with technical expertise over the choice and will of the populous. Other criticisms have been aimed at different forms of technocracy. For example, in a capitalistic economic technocracy, there may be arguments that the system of governance is structured to on support and further the means of the wealthiest citizens while oppressing workers.

There may also be arguments that a technocracy can encroach upon the freedoms of individuals as the government and resources are used to serve the regulations set forth by technocrats. The focus on science and technical principles in governance might also be seen as separate and disassociated from the humanity and nature of society. For instance, a technocrat might make decisions based on calculations of data rather than the impact on the populace.