“There’s a word I keep hearing lately: “technocrat.” Sometimes it’s used as a term of scorn – the creators of the euro, we’re told, were technocrats who failed to take human and cultural factors into account. Sometimes it’s a term of praise: The newly installed prime ministers of Greece and Italy are described as technocrats who will rise above politics and do what needs to be done.
I call foul. I know from technocrats; sometimes I even play one myself. And these people – the people who bullied Europe into adopting a common currency, the people who are bullying both Europe and the United States into austerity aren’t technocrats. They are, instead, deeply impractical romantics.
They are, to be sure, a peculiarly boring breed of romantic, speaking in turgid prose rather than poetry. And the things they demand on behalf of their romantic visions are often cruel, involving huge sacrifices from ordinary workers and families. But the fact remains that those visions are driven by dreams about the way things should be rather than by a cool assessment of the way things really are.
And to save the world economy we must topple these dangerous romantics from their pedestals.
So why did those “technocrats” push so hard for the euro, disregarding many warnings from economists? Partly it was the dream of European unification, which the Continent’s elite found so alluring that its members waved away practical objections. And partly it was a leap of economic faith, the hope – driven by the will to believe, despite vast evidence to the contrary – that everything would work out as long as nations practiced the Victorian virtues of price stability and fiscal prudence.
Sad to say, things did not work out as promised. But rather than adjusting to reality, those supposed technocrats just doubled down – insisting, for example, that Greece could avoid default through savage austerity, when anyone who actually did the math knew better.
But our discourse is being badly distorted by ideologues and wishful thinkers – boring, cruel romantics – pretending to be technocrats. And it’s time to puncture their pretensions.”