Friday, January 24, 2014
Apolitical technocrats need staplers
I note (belatedly) that the Piping Shrike has blogged about what he is calling the apolitical technocrat style of government as emblemised by the Abbott administration, which sounds a fair bit like my concept of the statification of federal politics. In both formulations, the party abandons leadership and vision in favour of actuarial competency - or at least the appearance of the latter.
Not that the two ideas are interchangeable. Actually, I think he's got this one wrong in the emphasis he chooses. His characterisation of Abbott's rabble as a "smooth" technocratic machine, even if only in design, is not supported by the apparent facts. Technocrats needs public servants, after all, and Abbott has spent years terrorising them. Who in the Liberal Party actually is a technocrat... Peta Credlin? She's a head kicker, not a spreadsheet specialist. The Shrike also mentions technocracy as concentration on providing services, which doesn't quite fit with a federal system in which most services are delivered by states, with the feds merely disgorging TPS reports by the Canberra-sized buildingful. As for "apolitical"... that dog won't hunt. This government is inherently political.
The Shrike is positive about technocracy, which is why he was a Rudd supporter as Rudd was the ultimate wonk whose destiny was supposed to be remaking Labor to follow the Third/New Way, like Tony Blair in Britain last decade. That didn't work out, for Rudd or the Piping One. Undaunted, the Shrike is trying to retrofit his pretty theory that political parties are dead, Jim, dead and the Liberal Party is the last remaining such to the uglier reality that the Coalition is actually less competent than the outgoing Labor shambles, and its cohesion is dissolving before our eyes.
I put the picture of Milton from Office Space above not because I think it represents the Shrike, but because Milton is a symbol of this new autistic version of anti-leadership, where there is no vision outside the cubicle of limited government. Whatever it's called, I don't like it and think it should be lampooned.
UPDATE: After some Twittering with the Shrike, it appears I misunderstood his intent, and we share more of a wavelength than I had thought. He was not trying to say that Abbott set out to be technocratic, or had achieved such, but that his emphasis on "good governance" was Abbott's faux version of undemocratic technocracy, which is not working so all we're left with is undemocratic incompetence. So we are in violent agreement on that one.