Mises Wire

Election 2020: Rout of the Technocracy

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Regardless of whether one supported a specific candidate for president or no candidate at all, lovers of liberty should be rejoicing over a glorious victory this election cycle. This victory is not of one candidate or party over another in this race or that, but rather a resounding ideological defeat of one of the most illiberal and menacing forces we face at the moment: technocracy.

Technocracy serves as a useful veneer to cover the lust for power and domination that motivates most political actors. On paper, it can be understood as “rule by the smart,” but in actual practice, this is merely a myth to justify one class of society maintaining power and control over everyone else. Buoyed by the magic word “science,” “experts” claim to possess final knowledge and make pronouncements on truth with the authority of holy writ. Those who dissent, no matter how educated or reasonable their disagreement, are bludgeoned with slurs of being a “science denier” as if science were a sacred canon rather than a process of inquiry constantly evolving and changing.

One of the key components of this technocratic charade is the myth of inevitability. According to this myth, those who disagree with the technocratic consensus are not merely wrong, they are opposed to the inevitable and inexorable march of progress and history itself, which the technocrats have themselves foreseen (thanks to their unrivaled intelligence, of course). The un-ironic use of the term “the right side of history” is usually a good indication that someone is a technocratic true believer.

However, simply making prophetic pronouncements smacks too much of religion (which all right-thinking people of course know is “unscientific” mumbo jumbo). Humans have always sought to divine the future, doing so via various means such as tarot cards, tea leaves, and mapping the movements of celestial bodies. None of them ever worked very well, but thanks to the power of “science” technocrats believe they have moved beyond such primitive superstitions. Instead of throwing bones in the fire and reading the cracks, technocratic soothsayers use such arcane techniques as “public opinion polling” and “data-based modeling” to “scientifically” scry the future and discern the arc of history.

The legitimacy with which vast swathes of the public holds these technocratic prophecies is one of the technocrats’ greatest strengths and allows them to get away with many things that would otherwise be impossible.

Just consider the response to the covid-19 crisis. Technocrats have been given virtually free rein to reorganize society at will. Few people would listen to the crazed antisocial lockdown proposals that threaten the quintessentially human aspects of our existence were it not for the ability to use “science” to browbeat dissenters into submission.

However, this election has demonstrated that not only do our technocratic overlords not have the power to scry the future but tens of millions of our fellow Americans are skeptical of these prophetic powers as well.

The degree to which the prognostications were off, by double digits in some places, has revealed that perhaps all this “scientific” polling and modeling isn’t much better than reading goat entrails after all. Thanks to the pollsters, millions of people were expecting a blue blowout that would sweep away Trump, secure the Senate, and increase Democrat margins in the House. Instead, the presidential race was very close, the Democrats have barely hung on to the House, and the Senate is likely going to remain Republican.

Had a soothsayer been this wrong a thousand years ago, he would soon have found himself having his own entrails read.

This disastrous record not only discredits election-specific polling and modeling but public opinion polling and modeling in general. This is perhaps an even greater blow to the technocrats, as it removes a tool by which they can loudly assert that they have a mandate to carry out whatever statist scheme they are harping on for the week.

Perhaps even more important than the discrediting of the technocratic soothsayers is the complete exposure of the pundit and intellectual class as self-deluded charlatans. For years we have been constantly lectured by smug self-righteous talking heads about how America is polluted with the sin of racism on a genetic level and is in need of repentance and absolution (via their preferred public policies, of course). This intersectionality and critical race theory reached a fever pitch after Trump became president.

Relying on intersectional assumptions, political scientists have predicted for years that eventually, thanks to demographic trends all the oppressed peoples will unite and rise up against their cisheteropatriarchal white oppressors and vote Democrat forever and that the Republican Party will soon be relegated to permanent irrelevance. Yet election returns indicate that millions of supposedly oppressed people don’t believe any of it. Trump crushed it in southern Florida among Cuban Americans and obliterated Democrat margins among some of the most Mexican American counties in the country along the southern border. The situation looks even worse if one thinks exit polling has any validity (an open question): exit polls have indicated that Trump’s margins increased among black women and men, Latinos, white women, and gay voters. The only demographic with whom Trump’s margin decreased was white men. So much for that prediction.

At the end of the day, this election has demonstrated that the future truly is unknown. Those proclaiming to know the end of history have been left looking even more foolish than usual. They would have people believe that everyone else is powerless against the inexorable forces of historical progress and that those who disagree are merely reactionary holdouts who will be swept away in due time. But as Mises argues in the concluding section of his book Theory and History, it is the individual choices and actions of actual living and breathing people that determine the course of history, not the gnostic scryings of intellectuals. Far from being something foreseen, Mises points out that “the outstanding fact about history is that it is a succession of events that nobody anticipated before they occurred.”

With so much technocratic propaganda perpetually inundating us, the future may indeed look grim at times, but take heart! In a glorious display of ineptitude, the enemies of liberalism have reminded us just how deluded and ignorant they truly are. The future is not written in stone, but rather is a blank canvas waiting to be filled by the choices of millions upon millions of acting individuals, individuals whom we are capable of persuading toward the liberal cause of property, freedom, and peace. The future of freedom is as bright as we work to make it.

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