The more time passed, the more complexities emerged. Where did theocracies like Iran fit in? China seemed to prove a market-oriented economy could co-exist with an authoritarian state. And while that could always change, China has amassed lots of credit (including from Fukuyama), for its technocratic skills to get this far. In the technocratic mindset, economics shapes politics; people liberated from poverty demand a greater say politically. The elites of post-World War II Europe offered a variation on this theme. The euro zone was built on the notion that integrating Europe economically would drive political integration (democracy was already widespread), which would eliminate intra-European warfare. This was a technocratic answer to an ancient problem. Wars are often popular, at least initially. And it's a myth that democracies don't war with each other: Pre-World War I Germany had a Kaiser, but it also had elements of a liberal democracy (elections and a Reichstag), not unlike Britain. The Euro elites expected to end war by ending nationalism, and allowing affluence to stifle darker impulses.
Then came the financial crisis. The credit crunch and meltdown swept away more than fortunes and reputations. Davos Man swayed atop his pedestal. The higher pretensions of that post-industrial discipline par excellence, economics, got whacked. And soon Europe's periphery began to explode like a string of firecrackers, exposing the lack of progress on fiscal and political integration. As politicians like Papandreou and Berlusconi fell, technocrats replaced them -- proof that the program of a unified Europe, which has never been fully accepted politically across the euro zone, staggers on. These last-ditch efforts to save the euro raise more questions. Can great chunks of sovereignty be trucked across the Continent, by fiat or emergency measure? How much of a restriction of national prerogatives, whether in Germany, Greece or Italy, will nations tolerate, particularly if accompanied by pain? We arrive at matters debated from the (ancient) Greeks to Occupy Wall Street: What is democracy? Why democracy? Can it operate in its purest forms in anything but tiny groups, floating on the largess of a larger, more complex society? Is democracy a luxury, afforded only to the affluent? Does social and economic complexity demand restrictions on political freedoms? How do you balance technocratic demands for growth, regulation and bureaucratic order with less tangible virtues of democratic participation, control and freedom?
The technocratic triumph of liberal democracy and neoclassical economics was built on the belief that man is a machine for maximizing long-term self-interest. If true, then technocratic projects around the world can proceed. Alas, it's probably not. What's long-term? Who decides? The technocratic view of democracy is that it serves as a safety valve, relieving stress, or a shock absorber for proliferating interests. In reality, technocracy, at least in Europe, resembles a loose lid on a boiling pot. For all his expertise, for all his rational calculations, Davos Man, continually confronted by the inanities (or far worse) of the demos, resists acknowledging the political satisfactions of debate, decision, choice and what Fukuyama calls recognition, not to say the power of religion, nationalism, racial and cultural solidarity (fascism spices dull technocratic expertise with racism). He also resists admitting limits. That said, for all the complications, Fukuyama made a valid point: Democracy remains the default political choice around the globe, as events in the Middle East and OWS graphically suggest. It's a sign of our times that this persistent impulse now sees the enemy, a Grand Inquisitor, in the ambitions and dreams of the technocrats.
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