Why Progressives Love Government “Experts”
In twenty-first-century America, ordinary people are at the mercy of well-paid, unelected government experts who wield vast power. That is, we live in the age of the technocrats: people who claim to have special wisdom that entitles them to control, manipulate, and manage society’s institutions using the coercive power of the state.
We’re told these people are “non-political” and will use their impressive scientific knowledge to plan the economy, public health, public safety, or whatever goal the regime has decided the technocrats will be tasked with bringing about.
These people include central bankers, Supreme Court justices, “public health” bureaucrats, and Pentagon generals. The narrative is that these people are not there to represent the public or bow to political pressure. They’re just there to do “the right thing” as dictated by economic theory, biological sciences, legal theory, or the study of military tactics.
We’re also told that in order to allow these people to act as the purely well-meaning apolitical geniuses they are, we must give them their independence and not question their methods or conclusions.
We were exposed to this routine yet again last week as President Biden announced he will “respect the Fed’s independence” and allow the central bankers to set monetary policy without any bothersome interference from the representatives of the taxpayers who pay all the bills and who primarily pay the price when central bankers make things worse. (Biden, of course, didn’t mention that central bankers have been spectacularly wrong about the inflation threat in recent years, with inflation rates hitting 40-year highs, economic growth going negative, and consumer credit piling up as families struggle to cope with the cost of living.)
Conveniently, Biden’s deferral to the Fed allows him to blame it later when economic conditions get even worse. Nonetheless, his placing the economy in the hands of alleged experts will no doubt appear laudable to many. This is because the public has long been taught by public schools and media outlets that government experts should have the leeway to exercise vast power in the name of “fixing” whatever problems society faces.
The Expert Class as a Tool for State Building
The success of this idea represents a great victory for Progressive ideology. Progressives have long been committed to creating a special expert class as a means of building state power. In the Unted States, for example, the cult of expertise really began to take hold in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century, and it led directly to support for more government intervention in the private sector. As Maureen Flanagen notes in “Progressives and Progressivism in an Era of Reform,”
“Social science expertise gave political Progressives a theoretical foundation for cautious proposals to create a more activist state. … Professional social scientists composed a tight circle of men who created a space between academia and government from which to advocate for reform. They addressed each other, trained their students to follow their ideas, and rarely spoke to the larger public.”
These men founded new organizations—such as the American Economics Association—to promote this new class of experts and their plans for a more centrally planned society. Ultimately, the expert class was revolutionary in nature. The new social scientists thought they knew better than the patri
Article from Mises Wire