How to design a realistically looking technocracy?

I mean that’s a standard problem in even mildly SF setting. It’s quite clear how to make a futuristic republic (assuming that you can hire a few Jedis) or feudalistic monarchy (assuming that you have enough spice and no sand worms eat your cars), just the question is concerning a technocracy. I mean a democracy in future may sound as old fashion as tribal federation in early XXI century. A technocracy - a system that would prefer competency, be efficient but also have its own issues.

So my guesses, maybe I need to adjust something: -universal suffrage replaced by weighted voting, where citizen rank is based on result of some universal test, also to stand for office passing even more tricky test is required

-single transferable vote (I like this idea, and when system is heavily aided by computers, then is quite easy)

-central bank and central statistical office as another constitutionally protected branches of gov

-”right to information” instead of “freedom of speech”, gov is obliged to provide with easily accessible source of information including statistical data, a few news station in the style of BBC, etc. (right to lie is actually not protected nor right to organize lavish political campaigns)

-gov provides financial reports with the quality of at least public companies financial statement (is your country generating a profit or its equivalent? well, as a citizen may be interested to know...)

-constitutional protection requiring balancing budget in long term (including implicit liabilities like pension and healthcare for elderly citizen)

-instead of relying heavily on voting / referendum, use focus groups - a group of citizens is selected by random, given data to read and finally asked to answer which policy to select (no answering from gut feeling)

-free or heavily subsidised education

-high level of anti-monopoly regulation and splitting monopolies / too big to fail companies

-high level of experimentation within system - is a gov owned school better or worse than a private subsidised by educational voucher? Regardless what’s the right answer, such gov would be required to experiment and base final policy on the result. Experiments in this style would be a norm.

-Gov agencies would bid to provide public services against private companies/NGOs (both for good and bad)

Reasonable? Or I should plan for story purposes such system differently? (the system does not have to be ultra nice, it just has be effective) (no, no communism, it was empirically tested and failed spectacularly)


I've had serious discussions about technocracy with friends, owing to complaints about the democratic status quo. One simple point a friend made was that government committees and branches must be administered by those who actually have a grasp of the subject matter. Simply require health committees, the health ministry, health minister, for example, to be staffed by former doctors and nurses.

There's two obvious ways of going about this, either have the people vote for cabinet ministers from a list of those with specific experience... which may add a little bit to the paperwork of an election, but will do the job. Or perhaps only allow specialists to vote for their own section of government.

Another way around it is to have a one party state with specific criteria for appointing leaders. For example, the Soviet Union was interesting in that members of the Politburo required an engineering degree. The logic there was that unless someone was trained in how to create and maintain systems they couldn't very well know how to manage a national system like government.

Contemporary Chinese and Indian governments have a strong technocratic edge too, as in both cases administrators are selected from an enormous pool of candidates. This process also exists for promoting member of the Chinese Communist Party on merit from the smallest local administration, step by step, all the way up to the Central Committee.

Another historical example is Fascist Italy. Italian fascist government was based on the principles of corporatism. Importantly this should not be confused with capitalist corporations. The belief the Italian Fascists had was that the state is a superorganism, and the largest corporations are its organs. Instead of representing the people, the aspects of the national body ("corporation" derives from the word corpse/body) must be represented in government. They will then answer to the Fascist party; which, conveniently enough by Fascist logic, was the only organisation strong enough to lead the nation. The corporations weren't there to benefit from it, rather they were there to inform and obey the fascist government. They had to know their place.

That's not to say your system needs to be a copy of Soviet Communism or Italian Fascism, just that these are examples of different technocratic ways of appointing governors to rule the nation. And these ideas can be divorced from the rest of their political ideology, and affixed to whatever social-economic system it is that you wish to be represented.

I don't see why you couldn't take the technocratic Soviet one party leadership system and affix it to a capitalist body... that's kind of what China has been trying to do since Mao's death. Hopefully the examples and ideas presented offer some food for thought!


Some things to consider here ...

Progress may be slowed down

  • Those who write the tests both define what their field of knowledge covers and how one advances in it. Once upon a time medical doctors had to be fluent in Latin. Should it remain part of the test? And can you be a technician (in any area) if you do not understand how a slide rule works? Sure, you don't need it day to day, but it demonstrates a sound understanding of the principles.
  • Who decides to introduce a new professional field or to split existing ones? All those new-fangled web designers. Are they painters or telegraph engineers? They'd score low in either profession, so they will not be allowed to rewrite the definitions of their fields.

It would be natural for those who score high under the status quo to resist any change to de-value their skill set or to reduce the scope of their authority.

Who watches the watchers?

  • Do you really want only bankers in the ministries and legislative subcommittees that supervise banking rules? Or should it be lawyers in every legislative committee?
  • Are project management and controlling their own speciality or are they part of almost every field? Does that mean you have to be able to organize a research project (write a budget proposal, pay invoices) before you become a senior researcher?
  • Is the national budget a decision for tax accountants and macroeconomists? Should they decide how much money is set aside for foreign aid, or is that the decision of moral theologians and development specialists?

At senior decisionmaking levels, you need generalists who can reach compromise solutions.


I'd say you need two things:

  1. a pool of people that are highly educated and skilled in administration
  2. general agreement among the rest of the populace that the technocrats are doing a good job; if not, you get revolutions

Look at the educational reforms that Napoleon set up 200+ years ago, and how their effects persist today - France is arguably the most technocratic of the developed Western nations.

He created a national system of secondary schools, with a single curriculum, managed from the top down. He also implemented nationwide civil service exams.

He set up several specialized universities (various branches of engineering, a graduate school of national administration) that still exist today. In a lot of ways, the graduates of the Ecole Polytechnique are a textbook example of the so-called 'deep state'. They bounce back and forth from government to private industry and they are a very tight old boys network.

When things are going well, the technocrats are doing much of the governing of France, regardless of which party holds the presidency or the parliament, and there aren't too many complaints about corruption, a rigged system, or insiders. But when things aren't going well - when that social compact of 'you get to run the country for us, and not incidentally live a very luxurious life in the process, as long as you deliver the goods' isn't holding - that's when you get problems.


I want to live in your country. The trouble is how it came to be. I mean once it is settled, most people would love to live in a functional state, and what you portray look like one.

But what about the people profiting from current inefficient democracies? The change to your way of living is not quite easy. Maybe a revolution or some idealist got to the helm? I guess this would make an excellent history for your system.


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