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What is Technocracy?

by Vicky at Thank you, Vicky!

The word Technocracy is derived from the Greek words "techne" meaning skill and "kratos" meaning rule. [1] Thus technocracy means 'rule by experts'. "The late H.G. Wells stated: 'Essentially Technocracy is a soundly scientific effort to restate economics on a purely physical basis.' The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines Technocracy as an 'Organization and management of a country's industrial resources by technical experts for the good of the whole community.'" [2]

Technocracy is both the name of an organization and a social movement. As a social movement, it appears to have begun with the Efficiency Movement that was a major element of the Progressive Era that occurred between 1890-1932 in the United States. Frederick W. Taylor was one of the preeminent thought leaders of the time (Taylorism). In 1911, he published a monograph titled, "The Principles of Scientific Management". The essence of it is that work should be unitized and standardized to allow rhythmic and repetitive flow for the purpose of achieving measurable, maximum efficiency of output using minimum effort and energy.

In 1919, American Engineer Howard Smith formed a group of scientists, engineers and technicians in New York City. The name of the group was the Technical Alliance. Thorstein Veblen, a prominent Economist best known for his book, Theory of the Leisure Class (1899) was a member. Dr. Walter Rautenstrauch, Chair of Columbia University's Industrial Engineering Department was also a member of the Alliance and the chief supporter of Smith.

"Scott's basic idea was that all human endeavor could effectively be measured in terms of energy expended. Whatever it took to make anything could be translated into pure ergs and joules. [3] In 1932, Rautenstrauch formed an organization called the 'Committee on Technocracy'. The Committee conducted an "Energy Survey of North America" to "prepare the ground for reorganization of production.[4]

In 1933, Howard Smith was persuaded to explain the concepts of technocracy to a group of New York's leading businessmen. The reaction of the businessmen was such that Columbia University's President Butler and Dr. Walter Rautenstrauch ran for cover and the Technical Alliance disbanded.

Howard Smith along with M. King Hubbert founded Technocracy, Inc. in New York to continue to promote the idea of rule by Technocrats and an economic system based on energy expended as a replacement for the price system. [5] Technocracy, Inc. is still in business in Ferndale, WA. And they are still promoting Technocracy as the only viable economic system.

In 1988, the ideas of Technocracy made a quiet comeback under the cover of the environmental movement when Senators Tim E. Wirth (D-CO) and John Heinz (R-PA) using private funds, sponsored Project 88 at Harvard University to prepare recommendations for the incoming president for "protection of the environment". The report titled, "Blueprint for the Environment' had over 700 recommendations for dealing with the "national and international environmental threats". [6]

It appears that the Blueprint was a compilation of a number of reports produced by Project 88. Two of the reports, "Harnessing Market Forces to Protect the Environment" and "Incentives for Action: Designing a Market-Based Environmental Strategies" appear to be the birth of the notion for a carbon credit trading system with carbon being the output of energy expended. [7]

From the website of Technocracy, "Money is an expression of value, value stated in terms of price; that is why our monetary structure is referred to as a Price System. It is universal; it exists independently of whether the means of production are in the hands at individuals, corporations or governments, or whether the economy is mixed. Price depends on scarcity. The opposite of scarcity is abundance. Our people are being prevented from enjoying abundance in an equitable fashion due to monumental efforts to forestall social change. The only alternative is the use of evaluation as a means of distribution is the utilization of the concept of measurement. The energy certificate, or energy card, proposed by Technocracy is the only measurable means of distribution that has been put forward. Energy is the common measurable denominator of all production. It represents the physical cost of production. [8]

Stay tuned because this story isn't over yet.

1. "Carbon Currency: A New Beginning for Technocracy", Patrick Wood, Editor of the August Review, January 26, 2010.

2. An Analysis of Technocracy, Information Brief Number 50, 1960,

3. American Heritage Magazine, Kevin Baker, April 2000, Vol. 51, Issue 2, "The Engineered Society"

4. Simon Fraser University, School of Engineering website, Course Engineering Science 100, Chapter 21, "Technocracy", title of the book is unknown,

5. "Carbon Currency: A New Beginning for Technocracy", Patrick Wood, Editor of the August Review, January 26, 2010.

6. New York Times, December 1, 1988, Philip Shabecoff, "Bush Tells Environmentalists He'll Listen to Them",

7. Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Robert Stavins Monographs, Project 88, "Harnessing Market Forces to Protect the Environment"
"Project 88 – Round II, "Incentives for Action: Designing Market-Based Environmental Strategies"

8. Technocracy, "North America – Too Complicated to be Run by Politics, Information Brief Number 64, 1968,

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