Boris Johnson Unleashes Green Hell On Post-Brexit Britain

As feared, Techno-populism is soaring in Britain as Boris Johnson is taking a swan dive off the 10-meter board straight into climate change hysteria and a Green New Deal for England.

Techno-populism is the blending of populism with Technocracy and has been officially recognized throughout Europe. Now that the fight Brexit is over, Boris is establishing himself as the most ‘green’ PM that Britain has ever had. ⁃ TN Editor

Boris Johnson’s Brexit administration has got off to a terrible start.

To appreciate just how bad things are, here’s a thought experiment: imagine if you had been told that the price of Brexit was the wholesale reordering of the UK economy on eco-socialistic grounds, as outlined in my book Watermelons.

  • Your countryside would be trashed by a massively expensive, economically unviable white elephant project — HS2 — whose only functions were a) to cover the government’s embarrassment at having squandered so much already and b) to enrich crony capitalist engineering companies and project managers and c) pacify the leftist Civil Service
  • You’d have to strip out your gas cooker and your gas boiler and replace them with new, much more expensive electric versions
  • You’d end up with a Chancellor who suddenly revealed himself to be as bad as, if not worse than, Philip Hammond — only one who is entirely unsackable, because he pushes all the appropriate racial/religious minority buttons.
  • You had a Prime Minister so bedazzled by greenery that he actually chose to share a platform with Deep Green, Malthusian purveyor of outrageous alarmist propaganda Sir David Attenborough and spew all manner of scientifically illiterate guff about the beneficial trace gas CO2 sitting menacingly over the planet like some malign tea cosy
  • You were expected to give up your petrol or diesel-powered car
  • Your coastline was defaced with yet more whale-bothering, utter-tosser-enriching, stupidly expensive bird-choppers
  • Your country was entered into a green experiment far more radical and transformative (and insane) than anything anywhere within the European Union — including, even, Germany’s economically ruinous Energiewende
  • The minister administering this scheme, instead of being your usual Commie deadbeat apparatchik, was so able and forceful you’d almost imagine him to be a Conservative — if it weren’t for his extremely dodgy eco-socialist Weltanschauung
  • None of this had been costed, not remotely. But we’re talking trillions of your money
  • The difference any of this will make to climate change is precisely zilch, not least because the growth of China’s fossil fuel economy is now entirely outstripping any reductions the West suicidally and unilaterally makes for green virtue-signalling purposes
  • To rub salt into the wound, your new Prime Minister made a speech singing the praises of free markets – as if to taunt you with what might have been if only you had elected an actual Conservative government. [See Matt Ridley’s tweet below]

The fantasy:

The massively disappointing reality (NB – this is not what remotely what Smith, Ricardo or Cobden had in mind…)

Would you still have voted for Brexit under those circumstances?

I’m not sure that I would — not least because everything I have just outlined above is actually worse for Britain than almost anything we experienced during those long decades under the yoke of the EU.

Many readers will no doubt say: “I told you so! Boris was always a squishy centrist.”

Well, maybe, but first, I would still maintain that he was the only hope of breaking that three-year post-referendum deadlock which nearly saw Brexit being cancelled; and second, I had rather hoped — especially under the guidance of an advisor like Dominic Cummings — that his pragmatism would come to the fore and he would have realised that the ONLY way of delivering on his promises for a revitalised post-Brexit Britain, for the working classes especially, was to ditch the green crap.

That bullet-pointed horror show I’ve just outlined above: it’s like a fantasy wish-list come true for all the things that people who voted Remain would have liked to happen to Britain but would never have dared hope could happen.

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Andrew Yang Techno-Populist

Andrew Yang: The Techno-Populist Candidate

No 2020 presidential candidate presents the pure Technocrat plus pure Populist platform better than Andrew Yang. He is notably different than the extreme socialist or leftist candidates and should be recognized as a Techno-populist. ⁃ TN Editor

Andrew Yang is a peculiar candidate for the presidency; not only has he no previous political experience, but he has also placed great emphasis on issues that have been on the fringes of mainstream media political discourse usually examined by academics or YouTube personalities. It is a credit to him that topics like automation, the meaning and value of work, the concentration of elite talent in to narrow career paths, and of course, UBI, have had a chance to be touched upon during this campaign cycle.

Nonetheless, the most provocative aspect of the Yang campaign, and of the man himself, is the unusual tension between a technocratic emphasis on expertise and efficiency, and the populist rhetoric he uses to denounce remote elite enclaves, and to call for a revolution that, in the words of Bismarck, we undertake rather than undergo. Yang views himself—or at least projects himself as—the people’s technocrat. An expert that the average Joe can trust.

Yang as Technocrat

Technocracy is government by experts. The term is Greek in origin, fusing tekhne (describing art or skill) and kratos, meaning power or rule. But the literal meaning of this word is not its salient contemporary sense. Modern Technocracy (and by extension technocrats) usually endorse government by a specific kind of expert, using a particular sort of method. The technocrat is usually (though not always) versed to some degree in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) and social science domains, and tends to want governments to draw upon scientific methods and findings, argue from data and cutting edge studies, and value efficiency and systematic rigor. Social problems, to the technocrat, are thought to come more from incompetence, waste, or negligence than from ideology or malice. As Zbigniew Brzeziński eloquently put it in Between Two Ages: America’s Role in the Technetronic Era, “Social problems are seen less as the consequence of deliberate evil and more as the unintended byproducts of both complexity and ignorance; solutions are not sought in emotional simplifications but in the use of man’s accumulated social and scientific knowledge.”

To summarize, the technocrat is someone who assumes that:

  1. Government and policy would be better off if they were presided over and/or dictated by technical experts.
  2. The problems of politics are primarily problems of efficiency and administrative dysfunction.
  3. The application of the results and methods of the sciences and/or other technical fields is the best way to solve our political problems.
  4. There should be a resource of unassailable facts that politicians use as the basis of argument which lies outside of the realm of opinion.

One of the most striking aspects of Yang’s latest book, The War on Normal People, is just how many tech leaders, start-up gurus, entrepreneurs, and hedge fund managers this man is in contact with. Countless pages offer anecdotes of Yang jetting to dinners with this Silicon Valley leader in San Francisco or that technical expert in the Northeast. Yang, by the very company he keeps, signals that he is a member of this technocratic class.

More substantially, the thesis of Yang’s book is both diagnostic and prescriptive. He argues that many of the current jobs that serve as the backbone of our economy will either be rendered obsolete by accelerating automation, or will be done by a small group of technical experts leaving many jobless and languishing in economic despair. According to Yang, the available data show this process is already well underway and will continue to worsen in the coming years. Yang calls this development the Great Displacement. And the unavoidable reality of automation, he says, will force the government to implement new economic and social policies in response. Universal Basic Income—what Yang calls the “freedom dividend” of $1000 a month—is Yang’s preferred means of dealing with this looming crisis.

Whether or not one agrees with this view, it is clearly suggestive of Yang’s technocratic sensibilities. He supports his claims and ideas with data from the U.S. Bureau that show low labor force participation, the recent elimination of manufacturing jobs, and an increasing discrepancy between productivity and compensation. His claim that elite talent is clustering into a few geographic regions and disciplines rests on data from the career offices at those very elite institutions.

For Yang, data are the primary resource with which he frames his picture of what is going wrong in our nation. A reliance on data to understand problems and formulate policy responses is characteristic of the technocrat. Yang wants to give every adult in the United States $1000 a month (adjustable for inflation) which will cost about  $1.3 trillion by Yang’s own estimate. He stresses that his plan will be more efficient than the current system of government assistance programs because:

  • One program will be able to accomplish the work of 126.
  • Direct monetary compensation has been shown, in some studies at least, to have more positive outcomes than mediated forms of charity or relief.
  • The cost of the program can be offset by a so-called VAT tax which will increase the cost of some consumer goods, and UBI will result in job growth.

Yang wants to show that his signature program will clean up administrative waste, increase efficiency, and that it is vouched for by experts. In terms of Yang’s rhetoric, the following passage in particular encapsulates his technocratic sensibilities:

We have an indebted state rife with infighting, dysfunction, and outdated ideas and bureaucracies from bygone eras, along with a populace that cannot agree on basic facts like vote totals or climate change. Our politicians offer half-hearted solutions that will at best nibble at the edges of the problem. The budget for research and development in the Department of Labor is only $4 million. We have a 1960s-era government that has few solutions to the problems of 2018. This must change if our way of life is to continue. We need a revitalized, dynamic government to rise to the challenge posed by the largest economic transformation in the history of mankind. The above may sound like science fiction to you. But you’re reading this with a supercomputer in your pocket (or reading it on the supercomputer itself) and Donald Trump was elected president.

Yang focuses on the outdated and inefficient state of our modern government and the technocratic solution of cutting edge methods to modern problems, and he is vexed by the inability of people to agree on basic facts—particularly scientific ones—that ought to carry far more weight than mere opinions. For this reason, technocrats like Yang tend to favor a quasi-evangelistic outreach to the public concerning scientific education. And finally, there is the concluding reference to the benefits of technology and to its inevitable future advances.

Technocracy, being more of a method of governing than a value system or worldview, is often used by a dominant ideology to make its ideological agenda more efficient. So in China, which has until recently been governed as a technocracy made up  almost exclusively of engineers, the technocrats support communism, but in America it is often used to make neoliberal policy more effective. This being the case, the elites are never really afraid of a technocrat: They understand that the method can be used to serve almost any master. Technocracy also has the benefit, at least in the States, of flattering the ego of the middle classes. Supporting a technocrat can signal seriousness and intelligence on the part of the informed voter who cares about “serious policy issues and scientific data.” Thus technocracy, in itself, is never really a challenge to the status quoBut this description does not, by itself, fully describe Yang or his campaign.

Yang the Populist

Populism is a complex and contested term. Some commentators have understood it to mean the integration and mobilization of the people into the political process. This understanding encompasses most movement-based progressive politicians. For the purpose of this essay, however, populism will be understood as the inverse of established liberal democratic institutions. In a political environment where the general will of the people (popular sovereignty) is seen as the driving force in civic life, an institutional establishment that purports to represent the people’s interests will do so imperfectly—often looking to serve the interests of the institutions themselves and the people within them as opposed to the general public for whom said institutions were built. This division between the general will of the people, and the institutions established on their behalf, allows a politics of populism to arise.

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Day 11: Technocracy And The Rise Of Techno-populism

If you want to start an argument in a room full of political scientists, just ask what they think about Populism. This is a vague term that means something to everyone and nothing to no one.

In the simplest sense, Populism is a movement of ordinary citizens against the elite whom they perceive are wrongly ruling over them. The problem is that it doesn’t matter if the movement is left, right or centrist.

President Donald Trump is said to be riding the wave of Populism because he is perceived to be against the so-called “Deep State” of elites who have a stranglehold on the U.S. political system.

The recently deposed communist leader of Bolivia, Evo Morales, was said to have led a populist movement when he originally rose to power. Alas, things changed when a new and more right-leaning populist movement rose up to throw him out.

The sobering reality about all populist movements is that none of them actually know how to run a country. They know what they don’t like but they have no practical policies that would fix things. Often, a populist group will focus on a single issue or narrow group of issues that have become important to it for any number of reasons, but when they are asked about broader policies to run the entire nation, the discussion falls apart.

The Technocrat Appeal

Typically, Technocrats are viewed as polar opposite to populists, and for good reason. Technocrats are often unelected and unaccountable for their actions, and they make important decisions without any connection to the will of the people.

Nevertheless, Technocrats know how to get things done and make things work. This is the exact point where populists and Technocrats find common ground, giving rise to a new term called “Techno-populism”, or a blending of Populism with Technocracy.

Techno-populism has a broad meaning, as does Populism. Even Wikipedia notes that “[t]he diverse range of movements along the political spectrum indicates that techno-populism can be used as a tool by any ideology that presents itself as a party for the people.” The modern use of the term was popularized just after the 2008 financial meltdown.

Dubbing this trend Techno-populism is very accurate because it describes much of what is happening in the Western world today. President Trump was elected on a populist surge but promotes Technocrats to actually make things run. The military, for instance, is full of Technocrats who prosecute armed conflicts. The Internet of Things and 5G are being promoted from the top down. Technocrat influence is likewise seen in the departments of Energy, Transportation, Homeland Security, Environmental Protection and Education. In fact, it was data-minded Technocrats who manipulated both social and traditional media to make the election possible in the first place.

In Europe, three instances of Techno-populism have been identified by political scientists: the Five Star Movement in Italy, Podemos in Spain, and the Pirate Party in Iceland. England’s BREXIT movement is very close to such a declaration.

Even the elitist London School of Economics blog recognizes Techno-populism:

The Five Star Movement and Lega’s nomination of Italian law professor Giuseppe Conte as the next Prime Minister of Italy presents a puzzle: why would an apparently ‘populist’ government nominate a Prime Minister who fits the mould of a technocrat? Chris Bickerton writes that given the Five Star Movement’s history, we should not be surprised at the nomination of Conte. The party stands for a curious blend of technocracy and populism, and is representative of a new type of ‘techno-populist’ party that is emerging elsewhere across Europe.

When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was seated as President in 1933, he was challenged by the early Technocrat leaders to declare himself dictator in order to implement Technocracy. He refused the “offer” but had no problem admitting scores of Technocrats into his administration to run the country.

In Nazi Germany, Hitler outlawed the Technocracy, Inc. movement because he could tolerate no competition, but then he relied heavily upon Technocrats to build his Fourth Reich.

At the end of WWII, President Truman authorized top-secret Operation Paperclip to bring some 1,600 Technocrat scientists and engineers from Nazi Germany to America and place them in top positions within our own government. Of special note were rocket scientists and aerospace engineers.

The only valid observation here is that Technocrats are always in demand by political leaders, who have no reservation about using them to further political objectives. Political administrations come and go, but the underlying Technocrats continue on uninterrupted.

In today’s world, the curious attraction between Populists and Technocrats is akin to a moth being attracted to the flame: Populists cannot prevent being ultimately dominated and burned by Technocrats.




technocracy

Populism Naturally Bonds With Technocracy In Italy

Italy’s populist movement continues to embrace Technocracy to form a natural alliance called ‘Technopopulism’. The first TN articles appeared in mid-2018, and now the globalist Financial Times has noticed.

Technopopulism is the most dangerous trend in modern society because populists generally reject globalization but then turn to Technocracy to run their broken societies, not realizing that Technocracy is the ultimate expression of globalization.

See also:

Technopopulism Is Born In Italy By Blending Technocracy And Populism

Global Instability And The Rise Of Technopopulism

The Argument For TechnoPopulism As Solution To Economic Problems

⁃ TN Editor

Italy’s new coalition government, composed of the Five Star Movement and the Democratic party, has been praised internationally in a plethora of unlikely plaudits from Jean-Claude Juncker, the outgoing European Commission president and US President Donald Trump to the Vatican.

This alliance of former sworn enemies cannot be explained simply as an effort to keep Matteo Salvini’s far-right nationalist League out of power. Rather, Italy’s new political experiment also represents a synthesis of the two main forces that have defined European politics over the past decade: populism and technocracy.

The Five Star Movement is a quintessentially populist party. It first rose to prominence through its founder and charismatic leader Beppe Grillo’s vehement denunciations of political elites (la casta) and remains committed to a bottom-up form of direct democracy, which sidelines the role of Parliament and intermediary institutions.

Yet, the party is now calling for a “responsible government” to avoid a confrontation with the EU over the upcoming budget. Mr Grillo even suggested that the governing team should be made up of independent “technicians”, though in the end only a few key ministries were not assigned to explicitly partisan officials.

The PD has historically been the party of institutional propriety and stability. It sided with the country’s judicial system in its struggle against former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and was one of the main supporters of Mario Monti’s technocratic government after the 2011 economic crisis. Yet, it is now calling for a “radical turn” in the way the country is run and has proposed the new executive be labelled the “government of novelty”.

What is taking shape in Italy is a paradoxical cross-breed of populism and technocracy — or techno-populism. It marries an anti-establishment appeal and calls for radical political change with claims to institutional responsibility and fiscal competence, designed to reassure international partners and global investors. What holds them together is what they both stand against.

Far from being at odds with one another, populism and technocracy are actually two sides of the same coin. As political scientist Jan-Werner Müller has pointed out, “populism holds that there is only one authentic will of the people”, whereas “technocracy holds that there is only one correct policy solution”. They therefore share a deeply anti-political strain: each claims to possess some kind of “truth” which makes parliamentary politics redundant and leads them to see opponents as enemies.

It is no coincidence that both Mr Grillo and former PD prime minister, Matteo Renzi have described Mr Salvini as a “barbarian”. Yet Five Star is just coming out of a coalition with the League, and Mr Renzi’s government once relied on votes from the centre-right to keep the “dangerous” Five Star Movement out of power.

In a system in which populism and technocracy are the only options on offer, every government is bound to present itself as a way of staving off catastrophe, since the opposite of the “one authentic will of the people” or the “one correct policy solution” must be either political error or malice.

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Global Instability And The Rise Of Technopopulism

Leftists are revolting in the streets around the world to protest any existing status quo, but as they unwittingly merge with Technocracy that they could conceivably hate just as much, they are fomenting the rise of Technopopulism. ⁃ TN Editor
 

From developing nations to rich countries, people are taking to the streets. Protests are leading to bloodshed from South America to Asia. The reasons for the protests differ, but there are a number of underlying questions: Why doesn’t everyone benefit in equal measure from greatly increased prosperity; why are our liberties being affected; why do the political elites enrich themselves?

The demonstrations and the deep-seated discontent can be traced back to the crisis of neo-liberalism and the populist response to this. The protests can therefore be viewed as one side of the coin, with the other side being the top of corporate America pleading for a focus beyond the almighty shareholder.

In August, the Business Roundtable distanced itself from the adage that the sole reason for existence of companies is to please their shareholders, arguing that the interests of employees, customers and society as a whole should also be given a prominent place in business operations.

R’s call comes as business elites fear that governments and populations will take matters in their own hands, for example via far higher taxes on profits, expropriations, the splitting up of companies, et cetera.

In essence, the most important contemporary political-economic issue is how to bring together three objectives in the best possible way: reasonable to high economic growth, a more equitable division of prosperity (it is of course possible to endlessly debate what is fair), and the protection of the earth, so that future generations will also be able to lead good lives.

Populism could offer something good here, if it has indeed woken up the elite and encourages reforms before the entire system threatens to be brought down.

U.S. history illustrates this. At the end of the 19th century, inequality had spun out of control. The transition from an agricultural society to an industrial one ensured that many farmers in particular ended up bankrupt. A 10 year depression from 1873 onwards caused even more misery.

The government was fairly powerless and did little. The emerging wave of populism found its expression in the People’s Party, also known as the Populist Party, and its party program, the Omaha Platform of 1892. It included the following fragment:

We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized.

The establishment was greatly concerned. For a long time, it looked as though the Populist Party was on a course to seize power, but it fell apart. It did, however, pave the way for the reforms of political and economic institutions by Presidents Roosevelt, Taft and Wilson, which served to make capitalist democracy more rewarding for the masses and to prevent the collapse of the entire system.

In this sense, populism is ingrained in democracy and it is perhaps a necessary correction mechanism. As Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson state:

When the state and elites become too powerful, it paves the way to despotism that silences or coerces the others to go along with it (think China). But… when non-elites become too powerful, the result is not liberty but the disabling of the state. As they disobey and dismantle state institutions, those institutions atrophy, laws become ineffective, liberty gets eroded, and the key functions of government fall by the wayside.

The pendulum is constantly swinging back and forth between too much power of the elite and rebellion by the masses. It is important to steer a middle course here — with the elite being seated securely enough to facilitate the proper functioning of the institutions of capitalist democracy, but not to the extent where clientelism and corruption prevail. At the same time, society as a whole should benefit sufficiently from prosperity growth and be sure in the knowledge that it can call the elite to account when necessary.

Parties have strayed too much from this middle course. On the one hand, there is the camp with a TINA attitude: there is no alternative to liberal democracy. They have sometimes become blind to the shadow sides of liberal democracy, and this has led to a technocracy that has spun out of control, with politicians essentially being managers.

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The Argument For TechnoPopulism As Solution To Economic Problems

Populism and Technocracy are at opposite ends of the political spectrum, so what better application of the Hegelian Dialectic that merging them together by thesis-antithesis-synthesis?  Technopopulism is in vogue but Technocrats will win if it continues. ⁃ TN Editor

Trade technocracy is on the brink of a crisis as the United States-China trade war continues to brew. Dissatisfaction over trade policies, particularly in advanced economies, has opened the door wide to populists and demagogues alike to capitalise on the free-trade malaise.

Economists and trade policy experts are always ready to defend free trade by showing that trade never fails to provide the public with win-win situations. Populists, on the other hand, say trade is detrimental to certain groups, albeit in an exaggerated manner — explaining the appeal of protectionism.

Indeed, public debates on technocracy versus populism often demonstrate that they stand at the opposite ends of the spectrum. Pundits and policy experts disapprove of hyper-politicised populism, warning about the disastrous consequences if economic policies are left to the populists.

Meanwhile, populists argue against technocrats whom appear to have discovered scientific solutions to many economic problems. Populists outrightly dismiss the legitimacy of a small circle of hyper-depoliticised technocratic elite, simply because they fail to represent the masses.

How did we end up here? How should the right balance between evidence-based trade policy prescriptions and fair democratic representation be formed?

First, until recently, there had been widespread refusal among trade policy circles to acknowledge the distributional effects of trade on public — that trade creates winners and losers. Benefits of trade are often highlighted through general macroeconomic indicators, which often make very little sense to firms and individuals.

Being professionally biased towards free trade, economists repeatedly use simplistic models such as David Ricardo’s theory on trade. This theory illustrates how countries will be better off by exporting goods that they have a comparative advantage on and import those goods in which they have a comparative disadvantage.

The argument of a “win-win trade” based on comparative advantage often overlooks the fact that comparative advantage is not a permanent feature of the country. In fact, the United States accuses China of engaging in currency manipulation and other “unfair” trade practices to gain a comparative advantage in certain sectors, causing the US to have comparative disadvantage in these sectors.

Nevertheless, economists would argue that monetary compensation such as safety net programmes would provide some cushion to workers whom are forced to be laid off due to cheaper imports of similar goods they produce. But such compensation is insufficient when these groups have already been stripped away from their values and community. And, what’s more if such compensation remains largely on paper.

This is where trade technocrats might have failed the legitimacy test. They are insulated from being held politically accountable for their decisions, thus, more likely to pick winners and losers from trade arbitrarily.

Second, even if economists acknowledge the distributional effects of trade and attempt to communicate these effects to the public, economists, by training, are unfortunately not quite excellent communicators. That did not really matter in the past when trade policies were left at the hands of the trade policy elite. But when the public has started to take an interest in trade policy, with the incorporation of labour, health and environmental issues into trade negotiations, there is an enormous task for technocrats to unpack economic jargon-laden trade narratives into messages that would resonate well with people’s daily lives.

Benefits of trade need to be presented based on firm-level and localised trade data as these would show differential impacts of trade across firms and consumers. More personalised trade policy advice to businesses can materialise if such data are accessible and more importantly, digestible to the public.

Third, technocrats and politicians need to settle on what should be the bottom line of trade policy. Perhaps, pundits need to recognise that free trade is not a timeless truth, and hence, moderate their grand ambition of a fully-liberalised global economy.

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WAPO: Shift At EPA Shows Technocrats Are Replacing Big-Personality Cabinet Members

This might be considered a weak link, but Washington Post themselves came up with the idea that Technocrats are infiltrating the Trump Administration. At the least, this lends support to the new political philosophy sweeping Europe, called ‘Technopopulism’, or a blend of Populism and Technocracy. ⁃ TN Editor

Scott Pruitt was known inside the Environmental Protection Agency’s headquarters for sipping $10 organic juice infused with kale, sporting Ferragamo shoes with his Hickey Freeman suits, and making biblical references in texts and conversations with aides.

Andrew Wheeler, on the other hand, is a policy wonk who keeps his religious views private and collects Coca-Cola memorabilia.

That contrast has come to the fore as Wheeler prepares to take the helm of the agency on Monday in the wake of Pruitt’s resignation amid allegations of overspending and ethical misconduct. It speaks to the shift that has been underway — in fits and starts — as Trump’s Cabinet transitions from a team stocked with high-profile personalities who joined in the early days of the administration to one with a growing number of technocrats.

While the Cabinet still includes unconventional picks, such as Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson, a former surgeon, it is increasingly filling with more experienced Washington hands. The Department of Health and Human Services is now led by Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive who served as the department’s deputy secretary under George W. Bush. And Trump has nominated Robert Wilkie, who developed his military policy experience over three decades on Capitol Hill and in the executive branch, to serve as Veterans Affairs secretary.

Josh Holmes, a longtime adviser to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), said in an interview Friday that almost every administration has high-profile secretaries who “usually give way to lower-profile folks that actually run the department. I think they probably run them better.”

“You’re dealing with people who know how to actually do bureaucracies,” Holmes added.

In some cases, the handovers have been spurred by Cabinet members’ own behavior: In addition to Pruitt, HHS Secretary Tom Price and VA Secretary David Shulkin lost their jobs after their costly travel practices came under scrutiny.

Max Stier, president and chief executive of the Partnership for Public Service, noted that Trump moved quickly to fill his Cabinet after the 2016 election and largely ignored the materials prepared by his transition head, Chris Christie, then the governor of New Jersey.

“You have to ask the question, did he choose right? It’s hard to argue yes,” Stier said.

Trump, according to two of his advisers, remains unhappy about having to get rid of Pruitt. But White House officials — particularly Chief of Staff John F. Kelly — made the case that Wheeler could accomplish the same regulatory rollbacks without the drama.

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Claim: Robots Don’t Destroy Employment, Politicians Do

This article is thought-provoking, attempting to make the case that robotization will make the world better and create more employment. Although there are individual instances where this may be true, there are horrible pitfalls that are ignored. ⁃ TN Editor

I’m not worried about artificial intelligence, I’m terrified of human stupidity.

The debate about technology and its role in society that we need to have is being used to deceive citizens and scare them about the future so they accept to submit to politicians who cannot nor will protect us from the challenges of robotization. 

However, there are many studies that tell us that in 50 years the vast majority of work will be done by robots. What can we do?

We have lived the fallacies of dystopian estimates for decades.

I always explain to my students that, if we believed the fifty-year-forward studies of the past, it has been seventeen years since we have run out of water, oil, and jobs. Fifty-year estimates always suffer from the same mistakes. First, presentism. Take the current situation and exaggerate it. Second, sweeten the past. No, no past time was better. Third, always estimate an impossible and negative future by ignoring the evidence of human ingenuity and innovation.

The reality is that today, the world population has grown to 7.5 billion, and we have more work despite the technology revolution. Global unemployment is at historic lows, 5%, global poverty has fallen to unprecedented levels, from 80% in 1820 to 10% today. Infant mortality has been reduced to less than half, from 64.8 deaths per thousand births in 1990 to 30.5 in 2016.

We have plenty of natural resources, proven oil reserves have grown and we have more diversified sources of supply. All this has happened with -and thanks to- the greatest technological revolution ever seen.

More than half of the jobs that exist today were not even known twenty years ago. The empirical demonstration is that data from more than 140 years shows that technology creates much more employment than it destroys and that it is a lie that low-skilled jobs disappear forever. Others are created. A study by Ian Stewart, Debapratim De, and Alex Cole shows clearly that technology displaces the most boring, dangerous and hard jobs, that is, those that we do not want anyway, and creates many more jobs in service sectors, human knowledge, and interaction.

In fact, Deloitte studies, Ernst / Young, and others also foresee that we will need many more jobs in the future in support tasks and services adjacent to the new technology activities. What the prophets of doom always forget is that as long as the customer is human, the experience and interaction with other humans is not reduced.

The most robotized societies do not suffer more unemployment, they have much less. According to data from the OECD of 2016, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, and Germany have the highest rates of robotization of work functions (530, 400, 305 and 301 robots per 1,000 employees respectively) and unemployment is less than 3.9%. Meanwhile, countries that subsidize low-productivity sectors and place the State as a “protective” agent have higher unemployment rates. France, which has less than half the robots of South Korea or Singapore (127 per thousand employees), has almost a three times higher unemployment rate than highly robotized countries. Spain has less still, 60% fewer robots than the leaders, and five times higher unemployment rate. McKinsey estimates that almost half of the competitiveness gain of the next 50 years will be explained by digitization and automation. This means higher salaries in all sectors, even lower-skilled labor.

I am sure that, as in the past, those estimates will fall short, both in the improvement of productivity and quality of life and in the advance of creative robotization. It will create many more and better jobs. Even for the sectors with low qualification, because they move to services and support.

The most representative companies in this phenomenon are denominated under the union of their initials: FAANG (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, and Google). The spectacular development of these companies has not reduced employment. Unemployment in the United States has been reduced to the lowest level since 1968 while the companies that were supposed to lose due to technological progress have been strengthened by having to compete.

In the world, unemployment has continued to decline despite the fact that these companies were growing to be 27% of the joint capitalization of the US S&P 500, with business models that have created services and jobs that did not exist only a few decades ago. These companies have created many more indirect jobs than they have “destroyed”.

The excuse of “what happens with less qualified jobs?” hides the fallacy of interventionism.

Protectionism, subsidies, and welfare assistance neither protect nor create those positions in obsolescent sectors. The way to adapt low-skilled workers to technology is with training, but real training, at work. Technology has created up to 40% more unskilled jobs in addition to those it destroys, as we have seen in California, Texas or Illinois and in Asian countries.

A first positive impact on the use of digitalization is caused directly by these companies, which together employ more than 800,000 people worldwide, with a productivity level that is clearly superior to the companies in traditional sectors, and with better salaries.

Companies like Facebook and Google have more than 27,000 and 88,000 workers on their payroll, respectively, and pay more than 50% on top of the average salary of industrial sectors. Their business model is based mainly on advertising in digital media, a market that did not exist until a few years ago. Another 115,000 net creation of jobs came from new technologies in the US. Amazon, meanwhile, with a 44% share in the e-commerce market, is one of the main groups responsible for the creation of the more than 400,000 jobs generated by e-commerce companies in the United States, according to Michael Mandel. In addition, in the case of this company, the impact has to be extended to sectors close to electronic commerce, such as logistics, parcels, electronic payments, etc.

In Asia, a continent where robotization is a usual element in companies and production methods, they already know the positive effects of this phenomenon. According to the Asian Development Bank, the greater economic dynamism generated by robotization in 12 Asian developing economies between 2005 and 2015 has compensated for the destruction of employment derived from the implementation of automation processes and has created more additional employment. This transformation has led to the creation of 134 million jobs a year, a figure clearly higher than the 104 million jobs a year “transformed” by the substitution effect of labor due to automated processes. Between 43% and 57% of the new jobs created in India, Malaysia, and the Philippines during the last 10 years come from the technology sector. But the most important thing is that the increase in employment in services, tourism, hotels and adjacent sectors has doubled.

In Europe, digitalization is measured through the DESI (Digital Economy and Society Index), measured by the European Commission. Denmark, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the United Kingdom are the leaders in the digital economy. All of them stand out for three factors: A very high level of liberalization reflected in the Economic Freedom Index, a high labor flexibility and a superior level of digitization and robotization. All these countries have historically low unemployment rates (below 6%) and saw minor impacts on the labor market derived from economic shocks.

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European Democracies In The Age Of Populisms And Technocracies

Technocrats in Europe are masters of interjecting fear at just the right moment in order to shift political power to themselves. Politicians and citizens are little more than ‘useful idiots’ used to further the Technocrat agenda, or the scientific social engineering of the whole continent. ⁃ TN Editor

In Europe, home to one of the most ambitious political and institutional experiments in recent history, the European Union, populist movements and technocratic elites have been among the most active actors in taking advantage of the use of fear, beginning immediately after the global financial and economic crisis of 2008.

The nature of populisms and technocracies differs in many aspects. Populist movements build their success substantially upon what we may define as “input legitimacy”, or popular legitimacy, while technocratic elites are supported by “output legitimacy”, in other words legitimacy derived from the implementation of efficient policies. This dualism is particularly visible in the EU and its peculiar typology of multi-level governance, with Institutions such as the European Commission acting at the supra-national level, often in contrast with EU Member States’ politics at the domestic level.

The difference between populist movements and technocratic elites is reflected in the strategies adopted by the two: the nature of the arguments, the uses made of them, the languages and the strategies of timing adopted, are utterly far apart. However, on closer analysis, populist movements and technocratic elites in Europe share one key element: mastering the art of influencing the political debate by producing and evoking fear and anxiety through an effective use of communication tools.

Populist Fears: The Force Of Simple And Vivid Language

In Hungary, the growing political hostility over the role of international NGOs, with their alleged aim of secretly influencing the national agenda or even worse, culminated in the crackdown on George Soros’s Open Society Foundation; in Poland, school textbooks are changed following nationalistic and anti-intellectualistic arguments, portraying minorities as a danger for the country; Italy is continuously depicted as being a German colony. The arguments of European populists are indeed simple and of a generalizing nature, evoking with concrete, vivid images fears such as of invasion, unfairness and conspiracy, to mobilize masses of citizens. These anxious feelings are easily stoked by fallacious narratives such as the “conspiracy of the financial sector” or of the elites, the “immigrant invasion” or the “Muslim threat” (trivial reduction of the Clash of Civilizations thesis).

Technocratic Fears: The Mis(Use) Of Complexity

Fears produced by technocratic elites in Europe are based on complex and specific arguments, posed in technical and bureaucratic language, with masterly timing: using specific moments of political instability or paralysis that result in uncertainty to justify the necessity of implementing the political agenda they support. Mentioning the possible reaction of financial markets, the “spread” (the differential between interest rates on local public debts and Germany’s) or the action of the Troika (EU Commission, IMF and European Central Bank), has become increasingly common, in what takes on the traits of a self-fulfilling prophecy. More and more frequently, we record statements from high-level EU bureaucrats or politicians such as “the risk of default will eventually lead to…”, etc. In particular, before and after referendums or elections, continual references are made to possible sovereign debt defaults or the risk deriving from re-defining the Maastricht criteria (in Italy, from 2011 until recently) or the economic price to be paid for leaving the EU (in the United Kingdom, in the wake of the Brexit in 2016), resulting in limiting de facto the space for political debate.

A Mutual Reinforcement: The Example Of Italy

The result of the strategy of building up fear, implemented by populist movements and technocratic elites in Europe alike, is a dialectical relationship between the two that paradoxically brings mutual reinforcement. For instance, the irrational nature of populist economic policies triggers crisis and turmoil, favouring indirectly the recourse to top-down approaches by national and supra-national elites, based upon their recognised competences and expertise. However, their action is often unsupported by transparent democratic legitimacy, especially when the tasks at hand consist of implementing severe cuts in spending upon social policies. This, in turn, fosters a reinforcement of populist movements, with the process following that pattern, as can be seen by the recent history of Italy: the action of a technical government (PM Monti), born from the inadequacy of the policies implemented by the previous executive (PM Berlusconi), lead after some years of centre-left governments, to one of the most populist governments of the EU (the Five Stars and Lega “yellow-green” coalition government).

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Technopopulism: The Dangerous Bonding Of Hyper-Populism And Technocracy

Technopopulism is rising at an alarming rate in Europe and England and can be seen in the United States as well. Articles describing the phenomenon are appearing almost weekly in the foreign press, and it is being discussed in leading academic think-tanks like The Brookings Institution. ⁃ TN Editor

It was Michael Gove who before the Brexit referendum said “people in this country have had enough of experts”. The highly educated Mr Gove was mining a rich seam of voters fed up with, and disregarding of, expert opinion. Brexiters have continued in this pejorative style. Only last week the foreign secretary, Boris Johnson, reportedly gave a terse and pungent imprecation to diplomats who raised the issue of companies doubting his wisdom about the UK leaving the EU without a trade deal. “Fuck business,” Britain’s top diplomat replied undiplomatically.

In fact both rabble-rousing Brexiters and experts have more in common than either would admit. Populists claim to have a special insight into the will of the people, able to dispense with debate and discussion. Hence Mr Johnson warning prime minister Theresa May against a “bog-roll Brexit” that was “soft, yielding and seemingly infinitely long”. Technocrats also argue it’s necessary to insulate policies from political challenge. They want more independent agencies to take over arms of the state. This unfortunately has captured thinking in the UK, where the last few decades have seen a steady growth in the number of agencies, commissions and regulators which draft legally binding rules. These bodies provide a way for politicians to look as if they are doing something while allowing them to duck tough decisions until they cannot. Just look at public sector pay, which could only apparently be raised via independent pay review bodies – until politicians under pressure decided they were unnecessary.

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In an age of subdued economic growth, wage stagnation and a concentration of wealth among the very richest, it is not complete fantasy, as the former Bank of England official Paul Tucker, in his latest book Unelected Power, puts it, to see our democracy “flirting with a peculiar cocktail of hyper-depoliticised technocracy and hyper-politicised populism, each fuelling the other in attempts to maintain effective government and to re-establish majoritarian sensibility”. Mr Tucker’s hyper-depoliticised technocracy hovered into view last week when the head of Ofsted, Amanda Spielman, responded in Govian terms to claims her inspection system is biased against schools serving white working-class communities. She claimed poorer, white students lacked the drive of migrants. Ms Spielman is a public servant who has the right to judge schools and teachers but not social groups. Continuing to do so risks her legitimacy with audiences that she needs.

Unelected power is not new. Democracies have found ways of accommodating the military and the judiciary. Central banking has become part of that story. These power centres have realised that they cannot act in too overmighty a way, that circumstances and politics matter in a democracy and that people’s livelihoods cannot be sacrificed on the altar of intellectual purity.

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