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The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Political crisis

The Romans had a way of solving political crises. They would appoint a dictator (magistratus extraordinarius)  for a limited time rei gerundae causa or seditionis sedandae causa ie to get things done or to put down rebellion. He was the  technocrat of the day: "Trust me, I'm above politics".
Today I read and agreed with a comment piece in the Financial Times by Michael Ignatieff (which surprised me). He makes the completely obvious points that nobody else seems to be making. Why should the Italian or Greek citizens trust the unelected technocrats? (By the way isn't there a delicious irony in the name of the new Greek Prime Minister - Papademos?). Government by technocrats perpetuates the myth that the crisis is just a technical one, something that a sufficiently clever economist can, given time, sort out. It isn't. As Ignatieff rightly says it is also a political crisis and above all a legitimation crisis. The technocrats may have the (temporary) support of the political classes, but what happens when the people don't like the medicine they prescribe and react by saying: hang on a minute, who elected you? Technocrats like to pretend that there is only one choice or one best way of doing things and that their criteria of "best" is the only one a reasonable person could choose. They are not good at understanding that the Greeks, Italians and probably the rest of us before long have political choices to make. And those are about the kind of country we want to live in and how we want to govern ourselves. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am a 'humanitarian', (whatever that is) and I work in that sexy place known as 'the field' (wherever that is). I had a bland lunch with a very senior and influential 'expert' (?) the other week. To my complete amazement, he actually lamented how if only a team of technocrats could be left to do their work here for a few months, they would fix everything. I am fairly young and regularly reminded in this macho aid world I live in that 'I must understand so and so', yet I thought we had moved beyond such ridiculous comments. What astounds me more is that such types have ample experience to recognise the naivety of their words. Yet apparently not, so I thank you and Mr Ignatieff for making me feel a little less alone out here 'on the front line'.