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Vampire Squid Reform And The Demise Of The Technocrats

Politics / Euro-Zone Feb 27, 2013 - 04:39 PM GMT

By: Andrew_McKillop


When Mario Monti resigned in December 2012 saying he "would not seek a second term" as Italy's prime minister the technocratic, reform-minded, former Goldman Sachs adviser was of course lying. He stood for election - after his first and only unelected stint as prime minister - and lost. Goldman Sachs, nicknamed "The Vampire Squid" along Wall Street, lost another key pawn in its Eurozone power play.

After pushing through the 2013 Italian austerity budget and resigning on 21 December, Monti had said he would not seek a second term. But interviewed by Reuters on 24 December, he "declared his availability to lead a reform-minded centrist alliance" to seek a second term "to complete the economic reform programme" that he started in late 2011 when he was parachuted into power.

 The former European Commissioner and GS stalwart, nicknamed Il Professore as well as Super Mario, was shoehorned into power by the Technocratic Wave of 2011. At the time "technocracy" was suddenly the New Thing among Eurozone powerbrokers. In Greece, elected prime minister George Papandreou was dumped and replaced by the unelected former central banker Lucas Papademos, another longterm Goldman Sachs insider. In Italy, Mario Monti surrounded himself with a cabinet of academics, bankers and one military player, an admiral, but not a single member of Italy’s political parties.

The buzzword was: "Only experts, no politicians", described by government-friendly and Goldman-financed media as "a novel step" designed to reassure international bond markets, persuading them to "shave" Italian bond yields from their "perilous highs" and save Italy from crisis. In Spain, while "emphasizing the importance" of government by elected politicians rather than by technocrats, Prime minister Rajoy’s government is packed with"expert outsiders" in major roles, including the Finance ministry.

Possibly surprising, and certainly disappointing to believers in elite propaganda - in first place the elite themselves - the Technocratic Wave is ebbing fast in Europe.

With no surprise at all the Technocratic Wave has achieved nothing. Predictably hailing the late 2011 wave of unelected power grabs in Europe with a strong Goldman Sachs flavour, 'The Economist' in a biased and mendacious feature article, 19 November 2011, explained to its idiot readers that although technocracy was a communist idea - with the proletariat in power, administration could be left to experts -  this "appliance of science to politics" is also popular and can be good under capitalism.

It gave the example of the US in the 1918-1939 period, and the movement founded by self-styled technocrats including Howard Scott and M. King Hubbert who, apart from predicting in 1949 that Peak Oil would make nuclear power "the only solution", militated for an economy based on measuring energy input/output rather than prices. Hubbert, whose career started in the early 1920s, observed that the 1929 crisis made "technate design" of the society and the economy an obligation. His thesis was that society is seriously handicapped because its two most important foundations, the science of matter-energy and the system of finance, are incompatible. A reasonable co-existence is possible "only when both are growing at about the same rate". Technocratic growth of the economy was many times described or defined by Hubbert who speaking about the Great Depression, in the 1940s, said: "I was in New York in the 30's. I had a box seat at the depression". "I can assure you it was very educational. We shut the country down because of monetary reasons. We had manpower and abundant raw materials. Yet we shut the country down. We're doing the same kind of thing now but with a different material outlook". Only strong and sustained economic growth could solve the problem.

In the US however, its early 1930s technocracy soon shifted on to what 'The Economist' calls "crowd-sourced solutions" to political problems, and ignored the "technate economy". More simply, the technocrats moved to promising the credulous mass that thanks to them, Technological Utopia was coming. This would solve any and all problems, for example what Hubbert called technological unemployment, when machines replace human beings. The coming Utopia would give consumers personal atom-powered flying saucers, truly wireless communication by thought only, and great things made from new high tech materials like bakelite - but only if they were "disciplined".

The results of indiscipline, they warned, would be disastrous due to The Herd being child minded, ignorant of science, excitable, and unable to decide their future. Expert rule was literally the only solution, achieved by a simple and stark switch back to autocratic rule, from what technocrats called "demagogy masquerading as democracy". In the Soviet Union of Stalin, by the 1930s, indiscipline had been solved by the gulags, and regime-approved technocrats such as Vernadsky could promise the same things as their charlatan lookalikes in the West.

With the call for autocracy, disguised as technocracy, all things and all extremes are literally possible. Autocrats wil almost always call themselved "enlightened" but their regimes have no need for this side dish, as shown by Chairman Mao's inner cabinet of handpicked deciders, picked on the basis of them not having any higher education at all.

One-party states are a natural fit for technocracy. Military coups in Africa are still today almost ritually followed by official communiques saying the New Leaders are free of all corruption, independent of all lobbies, and only driven by the national interest. The expert technocrats who quickly fill key portfolios are chosen in secret, and when they arrive in the country will be hidden from public view. In most cases, the experts are high-placed nationals in the UN, World Bank, IMF or similar agencies, who return as "providential technocrats", like Mario Monti returned home from his role as European Commissionaire for Italy in Brussels. The now-classic African junta will be a technocratic-military hybrid where civilian experts have the economic and social portfolios, but military men hold the defence and interior ministries: Mario Monti chose an admiral to decorate his technocrat cabinet.

Several small states and micro-states can be called technocrat ruled. These include Singapore, perhaps the "only successful technocracy", the Vatican, several tax havens or Fiscal Paradises, but large sized so-called technocracies are not only dangerous for the world, but also for their own people. Debate can be run on whether China, today, is a technocracy but other clearer examples, sometimes describing themselves as "expert ruled" include leading members of Mexico's Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) whose official history says it has evolved from being run by revolutionary generals, to lawyer-politicians, and finally to economist-technocrats. Most important of all, but not figuring in the official history, Mexico's technocrats have to be narcotraffic-friendly.

The European experience of "new technocracy" since 2011 fully verifies the history of modern technocracy: they are short-lived regimes; they are unpopular; they are failures.

When they end, the ritual myth requirs that their leading figures fade and slide quickly out of the limelight. This arrival-and-departure ritual was obligatorily used by Mario Monti. When he was shoehorned into power by his Brussels friends and by the Vampire Squid he was only"stepping in" to handle a crisis situation. After their stint in power as providential leaders, to acclaim and applause from the zombie media, they will rapidly but gracefully bow out. Only in very special and powerful niches, like central banking, can technocrats hang in and hold on.

Central bankers are autocrats, and call themselves technocrats: they have huge constitutional protection from "political or judicial interference".

No technocratic government can ever fully escape politics. This makes it the rule, not the exception that due to their short-stay and short shelf life, technocrats will need to do a certain amount of damage while they hold power. From Day 1 in their unelected power, they will have to infiltrate and undermine existing power structures, build new bastions of their own power, create special and new agencies, offices and regulators. Being "providential experts" in finance and the economy, who step in because of the crisis situation, they will mostly have to cut government spending and-or raise taxes, causing problems for their obligatory attempt at creating their own new and alternate graft-and-corruption systems, bolted onto the existing ones. Their elected replacements, also obligatorily and to comfort their own power, will dig the dirt on the graft-and-corruption ploys of the outgoing technocrats.

Traditionally in the case of autocracies, the Great Leader would be charismatic, heroic and special. Image counted more than an electoral mandate. The crisis situation which opened the door to power like a long series of wars, crop failures, or epidemics would be real. Today's short stay technocrats ritually play with an alphabet soup of billion-dollar loans, trillion-dollar debts, bank failures and other complex issues. Meeting the ritually tough conditions for an IMF bail-out or an ECB bail-out is in no way able to cause passions to run high in The Herd, as the "last minute negotiations" drag on, month-in and month-out. The constant technocratic drift of European Union treaties, and what these treaties might contain in the fine-print details is a turn off for The Herd. As popular as two-day-old soup and a week of rain.

The elite myth of technocratic miracles says technocrats do best when they rapidly blitz the mess made by incompetent, egoist and greedy politicians. They then hand back power to the same politicians, proving the wonderful decison making abilities of the technocrats!

In Europe since 2011, in what seems a vast period of time due to so little real happening, the technocrats have merely added one or two extra layers of incompetence, graft and corruption on top of already crippled governmental and political systems. Greece, Italy and Spain show this most balefully. Further up the technocratic layer cake, in Brussels, there is outright refusal to accept that the Eurozone is an unworkable economic, fiscal, financial and monetary notion. Any kind of real reform of the Eurozone would have to start in Brussels and need the cooperation of its unelected experts. Remedy can therefore only take many years, possibly decades, unless there is Eurozone collapse.

Democracy has raised what technocrats call its ugly head, cruelly shown for technocrats by what has happened in Italy's recent elections. In his last campaign meeting before the elections, Super Mario attacked left-wing trade unions for resisting reform, for being churlish about more unemployment and lower wages, but reserved his strongest criticism for his scandal-surfing predecessor Silvio Berlusconi. Speaking on one of his own television channels, the 76 year-old media billionaire instantly hit back saying it would be "scandalous" and "immoral" for Monti to fight the election after governing as an unelected premier.

Monti, trying to show his proximity (if not charism) to ordinary persons despite not needing their votes to have been their prime minister, when completing his budget plan for more and further austerity in December 2012, said: "The government has now terminated its role, but not because of the Mayan prophecy". This technocrat's damp squid joke was several times used by 64 year-old Beppe Grillo, the former comic, in his "surprise bid" for popular power. For his very popular 5-star movement, getting rid of Monti was like getting rid of a Mayan curse.

Technocrats above all have no sense of humour, making even Berlusconi seem human. With Grillo the real winner of the election, sidelining the "Reformed Communists and New Democrats", Berlusconi shows again that outright charlatanism wins more votes than the insidious but insipid charlatanism of the technocrats. After their short stay in power in crisis-ridden Europe the technocrats have slunk back to the shadows they came from.

By Andrew McKillop


Former chief policy analyst, Division A Policy, DG XVII Energy, European Commission. Andrew McKillop Biographic Highlights

Co-author 'The Doomsday Machine', Palgrave Macmillan USA, 2012

Andrew McKillop has more than 30 years experience in the energy, economic and finance domains. Trained at London UK’s University College, he has had specially long experience of energy policy, project administration and the development and financing of alternate energy. This included his role of in-house Expert on Policy and Programming at the DG XVII-Energy of the European Commission, Director of Information of the OAPEC technology transfer subsidiary, AREC and researcher for UN agencies including the ILO.

© 2013 Copyright Andrew McKillop - All Rights Reserved Disclaimer: The above is a matter of opinion provided for general information purposes only and is not intended as investment advice. Information and analysis above are derived from sources and utilising methods believed to be reliable, but we cannot accept responsibility for any losses you may incur as a result of this analysis. Individuals should consult with their personal financial advisor.

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