Last year the generally Left Polity Press published the book by Salvatore Babones, The New Authoritarianism: Trump, Populism, and the Tyranny of Experts. Dr Babones is an America academic with an position in Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney. What is of interest to us is the central thesis of the book, that there has been a potential conflict between liberalism and democracy throughout the Western political tradition. At present, liberalism is on the rise, if not out of control, but he does see merit in the presidency of Donald Trump in stopping the overwhelming influence of liberalism, and turning the pendulum back towards democracy. The subtitle of the book mentions the tyranny of experts, and here the central conflict between liberalism and democracy gets murky, because the technocrats are neither liberal, nor democratic, but, as I see it a sui genesis power group. The politically correct liberal is guided by fanatical ideology, but the technocrat is concerned solely with social control and the smooth operation of the social control mechanisms. However there is an alternative position that should be considered:
“Babones is correct that modern liberalism requires deference to expert (or pseudo-expert) authority. The people are the passive recipients of those rights the experts deem them to possess. As the domain of rights expands, experts end up making more and more of the decisions in an ever-increasing number of the most important aspects of public life: economic policy, criminal justice, what’s taught in schools, who’s allowed to enter the country, what diseases will be cured, even who will have the opportunity to run for elective office. The areas reserved to expert adjudication seem only to expand. Previously depoliticized domains rarely return to the realm of democratic determination. University instruction, medical research councils, disaster relief agencies, courts of law and (in America) the Federal Reserve Bank are just some institutions financed by government (i.e., taxpayers) but protected from democratic political oversight. In every case, the rational is that only those with the relevant professional expertise should be permitted to make decisions effecting such institutions.