‘Life in a Technocracy’, 1933: a soviet of technicians… in America? /5 (2021)

“Corporate monopolies would be the government.” “A most undemocratic system!”

by Federico Soldani – 24th Feb 2021

“Administration, in a technocracy, has to do with material factors which are subject to measurement.” Chapter 4 is about Government or the external world.

“Therefore popular voting can be largely dispensed with. It is stupid deciding an issue by vote or opinion when a yardstick can be used. Questions of taste, in fact all things affected by subjective valuations, are definitely outside the scope of the state. […] the answer depends on accurately weighing the various pertinent facts. Voting on such questions for which there is a right answer and a wrong answer would be even more farcical than voting for President.

“To trained minds in possession of complete information, the answer in nearly every case would be incontrovertible. The more important questions, such as what to produce and how much to produce, questions in which individual desires enter, are left to popular decision, in fact, the people automatically command just what and how much it wants. The state is merely concerned in translating desires into satisfying commodities. Consequently, in a technocracy, the separation of private and public function is clearly defined.”

This could be seen, in Freudian terms, as a separation of functions between the internal, subjective ‘id’ on one side and a sort of external, objectified ‘super-ego’ on the other side; in the Freudian tripartite structural model of the human psyche, the ‘ego’ is the conscious component that interacts autonomously with the external world and which integrates the different mental functions. Throughout ‘Life in a Technocracy’ the ‘ego’ is systematically mentioned on multiple occasions and fundamentally attached to negative connotations, for instance when mentioning the instinct to possess filtered by the ‘ego’ that in Loeb’s essay appears as the basis for private property. Private property which, in a technocracy – in fact an engineered form of communist society – would be abolished along with money and the price system.

In the previous chapter ‘The Escape’ he wrote: “It would seem that the abolition of private property is unrealizable even if desirable, so deeply rooted is the possessive instinct. Man automatically attaches to his ego extraneous elements and calls them his.

About such “separation of private and public function” Loeb added: “There would be no overlapping as at present, when the state defines what can and cannot be drunk, surely the personal prerogative of the individual, and individuals exploit natural resources (the forest for instance) in a wasteful, unsystematic, destructive fashion, surely an outrage against the body social.”

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Loeb stated that in engineering problems “for each detail […] there is always a right answer” and clarified that “voting would not remedy the trouble.”

“Even the problem of organization, of personnel, of devising a technique whereby the more efficient human units are given the more responsible jobs, and each human unit is found the kind of work most congenial to his nature, consequently, the kind of work at which he will be most apt, can be partially codified. But unless psychology makes enormous strides in the next few years, personal intuition should continue to have much weight in this field.”

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In the United States, “the alterations in structure are radical but simple. First the present tendency to merge the competing units in each industry must be carried to completion. The resulting group of great corporations would each control a basis industry. This integration is forbidden now because such a monopolistic control of a life essential would make the controlling corporation more powerful than the government. And a corporation under the capitalist system is created to make money for a body of individuals, called owners, or stockholders. These individuals, who in practice delegate their power to a smaller group known as bankers, have the right to charge what “the traffic will bear.” Theoretically a corporation having the monopoly of an essential commodity could obtain all the wealth in the country by raising the price of its product. To present such an outcome our absurdly wasteful system of competing producing units is preserved.”

In a technocracy these corporate monopolies would be the government. The stakeholders, instead of being peculiarly fortunate or farsighted individuals, would be the inhabitants of the territory, the consumers of the product. The directors, consequently, would be responsible to all the people rather than to a certain few, and would have no interest in profit but only in quality and cost.”

“Since the corporation has no competitors, it would not be interested in maintaining or augmenting sales. Its job would be to produce the goods wanted by the consumers, and to distribute them.” “The coordinating industrial board. The chairman of this last body would be the highest official in the territory and would have certain fiat powers for emergency use. A most undemocratic system! True, but with money abolished and every material want satisfied, these men who must have undergone considerable discipline to reach their high position would have no temptation not to serve the state. What else could they serve?

“There is no secrecy about engineering – Loeb wrote – The chicanery of finance, of vote seeking, of diplomacy, simply would not exist. We have then a territory openly governed by the organizations which produce the goods consumed in the territory. […] Even now, the producing industries are the bone and muscle of the state; the bankers, the brains; and the elected representatives, the voice. We would call the consumers the appetite, except that they are too docile to make the analogy quite accurate.”

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Loeb described a “technological government” more radical than Russian Communism in which not only private property but even money would be abolished: “In a technocracy, the producing industries, having undergone a metamorphosis of purpose, become the government. This would be a great gain in candor if nothing else. Banking loses its function. […] Its first great asset is the impossibility of corruption. Even Russian Communism, with all its religious fervor, has not been able to eradicate corruption. Its dependence on foreign sources of supply has necessitated the use of the money standard. And so long as there is money, corruption is inevitable. The United States, with the trade balance all in its favor, with the material for nearly all essential goods within its borders, could afford to abolish money.” In his view “everyone will have, once the system is functioning, full satisfaction of his material wants. When this condition is subconsciously realized” the urge for corruption “will lose its force, or, at least be directed into other channels.”

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Political government is also inefficient because its executives are chosen for qualities other than efficiency. In a technocracy executives would be chosen, as in big business, for fitness in their field. This would tend to make the executives of a technocracy at least as able as those who now manage the producing end of private corporations.”

“The executives of private corporations are hampered by the anti-social purpose underlying their efforts. Business produces goods to make money. […] The competitive struggle takes more energy, thought, time, and skill than the producing itself.”

“In a technocracy […] scientific tests would decide which article best fulfilled [the needed, ed.] requirements. The engineers would calculate how to manufacture the chosen example by the least expenditure of energy.”

(5 – fifth of a series, previous articles here, 12, 3, and 4)

Cite this article as: Federico Soldani, "‘Life in a Technocracy’, 1933: a soviet of technicians… in America? /5 (2021)," in PsyPolitics, February 24, 2021, https://psypolitics.org/2021/02/24/life-in-a-technocracy-1933-a-soviet-of-technicians-in-america-5-2021/.

Last Updated on March 1, 2021 by Federico Soldani

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