Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Riptide of Technocracy: Can There Be a Democratic EU?

The answer is no, no there cannot be a democratic EU.*
From the Boston Review:

The Lure of Technocracy
Jürgen Habermas, translated by Ciarin Cronin
Polity, $22.95 (paper)

For several years now philosopher Jürgen Habermas has weighed the deficiencies and prospects of the European Union (EU). His last two titles—Europe: The Faltering Project (2009) and The Crisis of the European Union (2012)—hinted at the possibility of demise, suggesting an EU on the brink of fragmentation, a process close to its undoing. These were apt concerns following the financial crisis, but now with The Lure of Technocracy, the specter is less dissolution than a form of governance perfected in response to that threat.

The culprit is “technocracy.” At its most basic, the term is simply intended to mean government that is weakly democratic, carried out far away from the influence and scrutiny of a European public. The formal properties of governing officials—their non-partisan status, say, or their technical qualifications—matter less than the way decisions are made and the form of authority claimed for them: the privileged capacity of an elite to identify the most efficient means to achieve supposedly incontrovertible ends. For Habermas, technocracy is a style of rule, marked by its unresponsive and unquestioning character, rather than a specific institutional arrangement. The question he takes up is how to intercept this mutated EU and turn its transformation to positive effect.
• • •
Like any critique of today’s EU, The Lure of Technocracy must be understood in the context of the political handling of the “Euro crisis.” As the global crisis of private debt was transformed in Europe into a question of public debt, and as concerns regarding the finances of particular countries provoked wider uncertainty about the Eurozone as a whole, EU officials implemented a series of emergency measures to restore order. These ranged from short-term bids to ensure the solvency of individual states (principally through credit facilities and cross-border loans) to deeper efforts to reshape national economies and reduce budget deficits. The latest round of this ongoing crisis management resulted in last summer’s clash between a government opposed to the austerity program (led by Syriza in Greece) and an array of institutions determined to impose it (led by the German government).

In these scenes of institutional redesign, Habermas discerns the “self-empowerment of the European executive.” There is no single institution that goes by this name. Among those Habermas denotes are the European Council, where the leaders of EU member-states gather for major decisions, and the non-elected institutions of the European Commission and Central Bank. Sometimes in concert with the International Monetary Fund, these institutions have enjoyed a level of influence over the handling of the Euro crisis unmatched by national legislatures and the European Parliament. Furthermore, by instituting new monitoring regimes to constrain national budgets—ostensibly rule-based but with much room for discretion—they have ensured the longevity of crisis powers beyond the horizon of the financial crisis....MUCH MORE
* From 2008's "European Politicians Think They are Rulers; Need Energy Wasting Palace":
When MEP's dream, are they Capetian or Carolingian?
Capetian, methinks.

I've always liked the Carolingians better,
they seemed more human-

Charles II, the Bald
Louis II, the Stammerer
Charles, the Fat
Charles III, the Simple
Along the lines of the Brit's Aethelred II, the Unready
(my fav. royal nickname)

Anyhoo, from the Economic Times (India):...
See also President Eisenhower's Farewell Address to the American People, January 17, 1961.

Most folks know his warning on the military-industrial complex:

...In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. 
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together...
But they don't remember what followed immediately after:
...Akin to, and largely responsible for the sweeping changes in our industrial-military posture, has been the technological revolution during recent decades.
In this revolution, research has become central; it also becomes more formalized, complex, and costly. A steadily increasing share is conducted for, by, or at the direction of, the Federal government.
Today, the solitary inventor, tinkering in his shop, has been overshadowed by task forces of scientists in laboratories and testing fields. In the same fashion, the free university, historically the fountainhead of free ideas and scientific discovery, has experienced a revolution in the conduct of research. Partly because of the huge costs involved, a government contract becomes virtually a substitute for intellectual curiosity. For every old blackboard there are now hundreds of new electronic computers.
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded.
Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite....
Something to think about.