Friday, 17 February 2017

Sooner or later, you're going to need the experts

I should know better than to read The Spectator but it's worth checking for examples Brexit idiocy. One such example is from Spiked editor, Brendan O'Neill...
--"What he [Blair] doesn’t realise is that Brexit was a vote against this politics of ‘we know better’. Against this new paternalism. Against the Third Way outlook of Brussels and Blairism with its elevation of technocracy over democracy. Against the new oligarchies that have insulated themselves and their decision-making from popular opinion. Against the notion that politics should be done by experts rather than by the masses, by clever people in Brussels or Open Britain rather than by Welsh factory workers or northern housewives or Essex Man. The people of Britain have already risen up, Mr Blair, and it was against everything you stand for."--
The basic problem here is we're all stuck between the absolutism of Blair and the absolutism of Brexiteers. Most of the time the public are absolutely happy to hand over politics to the experts and technocrats. It's a fine thing to say that politics should be back in the hands of the people but what the hell do northern housewives or Welsh factory workers know about running a fishery or managing the trading of intellectual property rights?

We have technocracy because somewhere along the line civilisation became high tech, fast moving and complicated. Much of the "Brussels" technocracy is there to defend property rights and enhance liberties. You could snatch it away from the experts and put it in the hands of the people but the truth of the matter is that we'd be back to cavorting druids, death by stoning and dung for dinner within a year.

Half the problem is that for all that we might demand to "take back control", most people don't want control, would have no idea how to do it and have absolutely no curiosity as to how the systems work. You can try to get people to engage in the details but they won't. They don't want to know - nor indeed do the chattering classes such as Brendan O'Neill.

Anyone can write a rousing polemic. It's the laziest form of writing there is. Attempting to understand though is in a different league. Something most hacks can't be bothered with.

O'Neill has it that "A recent poll found that 62 percent of those surveyed think Theresa May’s recently outlined policy to Brexit — that basically we’re leaving and that’s it — is the right and respectful way forward. Blair is raging against the May approach, the approach the public backs".

Except of course that in this instance the technocrats really do know better. May has set about a Brexit that is legally impractical, economically suicidal and more to the point, completely impossible in just two shakes of the Brexit fairy's wand. The vast majority of the public have no idea what is involved and don't care either.

The big problem for Brexiteers is that, irrespective of who is saying it, Blair is quite correct in much of what he says. The benefits of leaving are largely illusory and is unlikely to achieve any of the stated aims. Certainly not if we're going to do it May's way.

At some point the whole thing will have to be turned over to experts as the UK statute book is rewritten by ministerial decree. Armies of lawyers will be going at it for years and at the end of it we still won't have this glorious absolute sovereignty - nor indeed does it look like it will be any more democratic.

Underlying the Brexit debate is a far wider debate about technocracy vs democracy, where greater democracy ultimately results in fewer liberties. Plenty have tried to square that circle only to have come unstuck when they delve into the complexities.

We can talk about "the new oligarchies that have insulated themselves" against democracy but before you can have any kind of intelligent debate you have to identify what those oligarchies are, why they exist and how to properly democratise them. Since it has all been framed as a rejection of "meddling Brussels bureaucrats" we cannot even get close to a reasoned or informed debate.

Far from liberating us from bureaucracy, Brexit will send it into the stratosphere. In order to make good of it you first have to master it and make an attempt to to steer the outcomes. But to do that would require a little more engagement than writing tub-thumping tirades. The fact that our politico-media class prefers this kind of self-indulgence is a goodly part of why we are where we are.

There comes a point where railing against technocracy becomes anti-intellectualism - the prizing of ignorance over knowledge. That actually spawns a snobbery and hubris of its own - one that defines the Vote Leave establishment. When it comes down to it, pulling the plug on the most sophisticated market system ever devised without a plan, for entirely ideological reasons, on the say so of a slender majority is, morally, not all that far removed from cooking up dodgy dossier and invading Iraq.

In 2003, YouGov conducted 21 polls from March to December asking British people whether they thought the decision by the US and the UK to go to war was right or wrong, and on average 54% said it was right. Had there been a referendum, would Mr O'Neill have a newfound bloodlust? O'Neill is conveniently forgetting that Blair enjoyed a landslide victory thanks to the same Welsh workers and Essex men.

No comments:

Post a Comment