Technocracy, Inc gets a whiff of press

Howard Scott and the Technocracy, Inc group he founded is getting whalloped in the news media right now.

A fully fledged Technocratic movement flourished in America in the inter-war period: it believed in an economy based on measuring energy inputs rather than prices, and in what would now be called crowd-sourced solutions to political problems. This paper first used “technocracy” in March 1933, when a book reviewer bemoaned the “lurid prominence” of the term. He derided its proponents as “half-scientist…half-charlatan”, decried their “indefensible” conceptual basis, and ascribed their popularity to “extraordinary” American credulity. Howard Segal, an historian at the University of Maine, says the movement imploded when its leading light, Howard Scott, was unmasked as a failed wax salesman, not the great engineer he claimed to be.

Okay.  Fine.  It’s just this Economist mention and this Slate article.

Inspired in part by the ideas of economist Thorstein Veblen, the movement was led by engineer Howard Scott, who proposed radical utopian ideas and solutions to the economic disaster in scientific language. His movement, founded in 1932, drew national interest—the New York Times was the first major news organization to report the phenomenon, and Liberty Digest declared, “Technocracy is all the rage. All over the country it is being talked about, explained, wondered at, praised, damned. It is found about as easy to explain … as the Einstein theory of relativity.” A year later, it had mostly flamed out. No popular Technocratic party exists in the United States today, but Scott’s organization, called Technocracy Incorporated, persists in drastically reduced form.

But it gives the “Technocracy Technical Alliance” something to dump a load of their counter-veiling propaganda in the comments section and herald the greatness of Howard Scott… who’s not seen with Albert Einstein.

He gets a better write-up from the Guardian.

Yes, there’s no harm in saying it: technocracy once used to be a big idea for the international left. In 1930s America, for instance, it wasn’t a term of abuse but the programme for a new social utopia. In the middle of the Great Depression, an emergent technocratic movement led by engineers and dissident economists such as Thorstein Veblen and Howard Scott proposed that populist politicians simply weren’t capable to fix the system: “The maladministration and chaos imposed upon the industrial mechanism by arbitrary rule of extraneous interest has reached such a point that many technicians feel the urgent need of confederating their forces in a program of industrial co-ordination based, not on belief, but exact knowledge,” thundered a pamphlet by the Technical Alliance.
The American technocratic movement was short-lived, not least because the flaws in its thinking were so apparent: their belief that anyone could ever be completely apolitical in their decision-making now strikes us as naive. No one remembers the technocrats’ “Plan of Plenty”, and everybody remembers Roosevelt’s New Deal.

I don’t see any comments from the Institute off this article.  I do see “Hyper Zeitgeist”, oddly enough.

And that probably ends the current moment in the sun for the organization.

2 Responses to “Technocracy, Inc gets a whiff of press”

  1. robert Says:

    Technocracy simply means a government of function and skill by technical experts who would work for the benefit of all without the interference of any kind of political price system.

  2. Justin Says:

    Or… a radically different system than the one we have right now, which whatever else you can say about it pretty much makes null the word “simply”.

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