The latest issue of The Economist looks at technocrats in charge:
EVEN before Plato conceived the philosopher-king, people yearned for clever, dispassionate and principled government. When the usual run of rulers proves cowardly, indecisive or discredited, turning to the wisdom and expertise of a technocrat, as both Italy and Greece have done in recent days, is particularly tempting.
Those of us who just finished reading The Road to Serfdom read those words and sense the cozy comfort of an argument close to our hearts. When the article goes on to say: “Crankishness aside, technocracy and autocracy have long been natural bedfellows,” we expect HAYEK to jump off the page any moment—he is lurking between the lines no more. But, curiously, this venerable British weekly ran an article on technocracy and autocracy without mentioning that most famous economist to stroll the halls of the London School of Economics.
Their conclusion? “History suggests that technocrats do best when blitzing the mess made by incompetent and squabbling politicians.” Perhaps the reason for the omission of Mr. Hayek was not so much a conscious decision as unfamiliarity. If a few others throw in a buck, I’m happy to do my part in sending The Economist a copy of TRtS. The Reader’s Digest version.
The “avuncular state” is one of this week’s topics in the Comparative Economics Systems course. Should the state take a more paternalistic role? The Economist covers the topic fairly regularly, and you can probably guess which side they are on. This week’s issue has an entertaining (and worrisome) piece in the Schumpeter blog on the “Licence Raj.” As the quote in the title of this post says, even interior designers must be licensed in Florida. Requiring licensing raises wages by about 15% in a profession, the article says.
While The Economist sees licensing requirements as a weight pulling down entrepreneurship, others see that 15% wage bump as a perfectly good reason to require licensing. In Germany, for instance, the traditional and highly developed apprenticeship system ensures that students who do not go on to university end up with respectable, satisfying work as licensed craftsmen and women, for a living wage.
Listen to this recent OnPoint show for more on this.
In response to my post on The Spirit Level, Oscar Koberling pointed out in an email that the most recent issue (pronounce that with an “s”, not “ishue”) of The Economist includes a Special Report on “The Few” (not the proud, but the rich). One article in that Report beats up pretty effectively on The Spirit Level. Thanks for the tip!
Several articles in the Report are interesting. One of them is on higher education, and it points out that “[i]n some of the hardest disciplines most postgrads at American universities are foreign: 65% in computing and economics, 56% in physics and 55% in maths…”