I have a slightly different complaint from Atrios‘s about the concept of the “technocrat” in the early 21st century west. My issue is that the range of ideologies one encounters in the corridors of power these days is dramatically narrower than it was 50 years ago. The “right tail” of opinion about race, gender, imperialism, and so forth has been drastically curtailed, as has the “left tail” of opinion about management of the economy.
You don’t want to say that the policy differences between Barack Obama and Rick Perry are unimportant. They’re quite important. People’s lives hang in the balance here. The distributional consequences of their tax policies are wildly different. But they really are arguing about the distribution of the tax burden, which is a quintessentially “technocratish” thing to be arguing about. And the differences between Democrats and Republicans over economic policy are large compared to the disagreements between the main parties in other developed countries. The “technocrats” are basically everyone with a plausible shot at governing. This is really different from relatively recent politics when François Mitterand spend the early ’80s nationalizing firms while Margaret Thatcher privatized them.