As the U.S. faces one of the most severe public health crises in its modern history, there are those who advocate for technocracy as a means to guide the country.
Iziah Thompson, Senior Policy Analyst for the Office of the New York City Comptroller, told The Politic that “technocracy is a very charged term” that can be defined in many ways, but that at its core it would entail “a better run society…that installs a higher degree of power [to] experts in government: bureaucrats that often work irrespective of what political machinations are underway.”
Thompson added that he and others who support technocracy “believe that there is a more scientific way to look at and implement public policy; […and that…] this power must be understood in the context of its balance with democratic control.” Thomson affirmed that protecting democracy is essential, but that the current status quo in the U.S. is flawed and in need of reform—reform which could effectively occur by providing technocrats with greater authority.
Although the United States has never adopted a fully technocratic government, it has long flourished as a global center for the development of scholars and experts. In addition to domestic professionals, the country has nurtured many renowned groups of foreign technocrats such as the Berkeley Mafia and the Chicago Boys, who returned to Indonesia and Chile respectively to apply their technocratic education and successfully catalyze growth in their socioeconomically stagnant nations.
U.S. leaders have also often integrated technocratic elements into governance. Members of President Franklin Roosevelt’s “Brain Trust”—an academic advisory team composed primarily of experts in law and economics—became key advisers to Roosevelt during the Great Depression and were integral in shaping policies such as the New Deal.
Thompson told The Politic that “the reality is that [the United States] federal government did get somewhat more technocratic under the Carter, Clinton and Obama administrations.” One of Thompson’s own professors from the New York University Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, Tatiana Homonoff, was a part of the Social and Behavioral Science Team in the Obama White House, which aimed to “apply behavioral science insights to the work government agencies did.”