A Couple of Nice Observations on Technocracy and Budgets

From South Bend Seven come a couple of comments I liked today.  The first was on the Left and current budget plans:

If I was on the Left I would look at these figures and then begin to think long and hard about whether knee-jerk opposition to things like Medicare block grants or defined-contribution public pensions is such a good idea. The biggest threat to redistribution to the poor is existing redistribution to the old.

To the last sentence, I would add "and redistribution to upper middle class public sector workers."  I am constantly amazed at the Left's drop-dead defense of above-market pay and benefits for public sector workers.  This already reduces funding for things like actual classroom instruction and infrastructure improvements, and almost certainly the looming public pension crisis will reduce resources for an array of programs much loved by the Left.

The second observation relates to a favorite topic of mine, on technocracy:

Often enough I think "you know, we need more scientists in charge of things." Then I remember that the scientists we get are Steven Chu and I think "yeah, maybe not so much."

Then I think about all the abominable committee meetings and discussion sessions I've been in with scientists and I think "perhaps best not to put scientists in charge."

Then I look over at my bookshelf, notice my cope of The Machinery of Freedom, and think "why are we putting anybody in charge at all?"

If this Administration has any one theme, it is a total confidence that a few people imposing solutions and optimizations top-down  is superior to bottom-up or emergent solutions.   Even the recent memo on targeted killings reflects this same philosophy, that one man with a few smart people in the White House can make better life-or-death decisions than all that messy stuff with courts and lawyers.   Those of us who understand our Hayek know that superior top-down decision-making is impossible, given that the decision-makers can never have the information or incentives to make the best decisions for complex systems, and because they tend to impose one single objective function when in fact we are a nation of individuals with 300 million different objective functions.  But the drone war / targeted killing memo demonstrates another problem:  technocrats hate due process.   Due process for them is just time-wasting review by lesser mortals of their decisions.  Just look at how Obama views Congress, or the courts.

  • anonzmouses

    "I am constantly amazed at the Left's drop-dead defense of above-market pay and benefits for public sector workers."

    Because many _are_ public sector workers.

  • bigmaq1980

    "If this Administration has any one theme, it is a total confidence that a few people imposing solutions and optimizations top-down is superior to bottom-up or emergent solutions."

    Frankly, I think we are all being too nice here. These guys are not thinking of "solving problems" at all. They are looking for ways to consolidate and use their power, primarily for their own and their "group's" benefit.

    I am long past the thinking that they are "honest people" looking to solve problems, but are "simply misguided". Some are, maybe many are, but much of the leadership is very unlikely so.

    It's not a conspiracy with some central world body pulling the strings, but it is the natural outcome of too much power concentrated in one place. The incentives for the wrong kinds of behavior are just too great.

    Due process is time wasting. So is deliberation and negotiation with Congress, when one can just pass an Executive Order.

    Care to place bets on a "Third Term"?

  • http://devilish-details.blogspot.com/ mesaeconoguy

    Exactly. The flagrant dishonesty and law-flouting/lawlessnes from Obamascare passage to the Chrysler/GM bailouts to Doddering Frankenstein to Fast & Furious to the minor black eye of the painfully obviously unconstitutional recess appointments (minor setback, that) will most certainly get worse, and more brazen.

    It will have very serious, likely rapid consequences.

  • mesocyclone

    I'll give the left (grudgingly) the benefit of the doubt and say they actually believe this stuff. Progressives have long had faith in unselfish government functionaries to make everything right in society. So I guess they think these saints should be well paid for their saintly work.

    I'm not kidding.

  • http://profiles.google.com/maruadventurer john mcginnis

    "But the drone war / targeted killing memo demonstrates another problem: technocrats hate due process."

    From who has sat thru more that his ungodly share of tech meetings I can confidently tell you -- If you were not at the meeting you got your `due process`. Fair, well no, but then that was never the point of tech.
    Good article.

  • nehemiah

    Like Al Gore?

  • JIMC5499

    Some of the replies here remind me of a saying I heard once. "Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence and three times is enemy action." I'm beginning to believe in the "enemy action" part as far as the Left is concerned. This has nothing to do with "meaning well" or "misguided good intentions", as far as I am concerned it is a directed attack. As far as public sector employees are concerned, why would the Left want to cut off it's main means of financial support?

  • mesocyclone

    I didn't say their faith was well placed :-)

  • SamWah

    They know they are smarter than we are, therefore they must be right.

  • http://thegameiam.wordpress.com David

    On the topic of top-down vs bottom-up, have you read Taleb's "Antifragile"?