THE FORGOTTEN STORY OF TECHNOCRACY’S FOUNDING FATHER

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His name was Howard Scott. 

And more than 20 years before C.S. Lewis warned in the 1940’s about a world in which technocrats would wield undue power via technology, Scott was advocating for exactly that, via his organization “Technical Alliance.”

Largely forgotten now, Scott was a surprisingly influential figure in the first half of the 20th century. The group he founded at one time had millions of members in California alone, and many more across the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Beginning in 1933, Scott published a magazine entitled Technocracy Inc., regularly gave talks to business groups and government figures, and had considerable success as a thought leader of his time.

Though his name is not well recognized now, his predictions of how technocrats were destined to be the arbiters of social change have been borne out to startling degree.

Scott often incisively pointed out the nature and scale of the technological revolution in ways others of his time didn’t comprehend, and he presciently foresaw a number of events, including:

  • The debt and inflation traps of the existing political and financial order
  • A stratification of wealth, undermining a technologically provided abundance unprecedented in human history 
  • The squandering of opportunity that would occur if America insisted on global influence and trade, rather than focusing on and satisfying domestic wants
  • Political and military conflict between the West and Russia (then the U.S.S.R.) involving Russia’s oil and natural gas pipelines and influence; from TECHNOCRACY'S HOWARD SCOTT SAID (THSS) p.1896
  • The rise of post WWII Japan and China as industrial powers that would compete with America (THSS p. 1115)
  • The need to efficiently use and conserve natural resources
  • Impacts of “Climate Change” that could roil and change economies and society (THSS p. 917)

The Original (Unrealized) “Great Reset”

Scott considered himself a man of science, and touted (and apparently inflated) his own training and experience as an engineer.

From the 1920’s to the 1960’s, he proselytized for what he named a “Technocracy.”

In doing so, he managed to sound at various times like Klaus Schwab, Elon Musk, Donald Trump, environmentalists and even the renowned trends forecaster and publisher of this magazine, Gerald Celente.

He could sound like he was for the average man. On the other hand, many of his ideas would deprive those same average people of virtually any substantial freedom, in the name of a collective imperative to conduct society “efficiently” for the supposed benefit of all.

He purported to be against a privileged few controlling a corrupt financial system. 

But he was also for moving the bulk of humanity off the land and into scientifically determined urban housing. 

He literally saw humans as “devices,” and viewed population control as inevitable and necessary:

“There will have to be control of population growth, not the so-called ‘voluntary parenthood’ of planned parenthood, but a collective control of the growth curve of these energy-consuming devices known as human beings.” (THSS, p. 1834)

What was Scott’s overall vision?

As early as 1921, in an interview in The New York World newspaper, he declared:

"The technicians are the only group who know how people get things. They are not only the producers, but they are the only ones who know how production is accomplished. Bankers don't know. Politicians and diplomats don't know. If these fellows did know, they would have got the wheels started before this. They all want production—everybody does; but those who have been running things don't know how to run them, while those who do know how have not so far considered it their business.”

from TECHNOCRACY'S HOWARD SCOTT SAID (THSS) compiled speeches and writing, 1989, Technocracy Inc.

Scott considered the political, social, religious and financial organizations of his time as outdated and retrogressive. While they represented the built-up ways of doing things that had existed and evolved over a millenia, Scott considered them as impeding the true driver of modern progress: technology.

As the self-styled engineer conceived it, providing for human salvation and happiness was not a matter of having the right philosophy, or religion, or political ideology. It was a scientific problem of efficiently using the overall “energy” of a system most efficiently, in order to provide abundance to all. (THSS, p. 19-20)

Scott noted that up until the prior 150 years, (or about the late 1700’s, given the time of his writing), humankind had been in a relatively “steady state” concerning many of the means and methods of existence.  

Scott was adamant that the measurements of efficient use of energy in all its forms was the way to calculate and improve productive output, and even organize and incentivize the entire system. (THSS, p. 25)

The biggest barrier to an ascendant technocracy, in Scott’s view, was the existent “price system,” based on assigning value to a reference commodity, whether precious metals or something else.

Scott believed the price system encouraged inevitable perversions and inefficiencies, including debt accumulation, financial and banking abuse, etc.

Social and political movements that sought to unite and leverage factions, were also viewed by Scott as worse than useless, and actually harmful to true progress.

The most vague element of Scott’s analysis lay in his proposed solution to the prevailing financial and economic system, and social problems in general. 

Here Scott proposed a radical and undeniably utopian “Technate.” Reading it today, it seems like a misty premonition of WEF founder Klaus Schwab’s “Great Reset:”

“Technocratic New America must operate its physical equipment at continuous full load with maximum efficiency in order to provide security to all from birth to death and equality of income for every adult at the highest standard of living compatible with wise conservation of its natural resources. 

“Technocracy will provide mass purchasing power sufficient to purchase the output of continuous mass production and, as the total purchasing power of a Technate is a certification of the net cost of all goods and services, it will therefore at any time purchase the total volume of goods and services extant. Purchasing power is the crux of America's problem, and a solution to that problem can be reached only through an energy medium of distribution. 

“The currency of tomorrow cannot be a medium of exchange. It must never be permitted to possess the prerogative of creating debt. A scientific medium of distribution must be devised. Only through such a medium can the America of tomorrow provide mass purchasing power to its people; a medium which cannot be begged or borrowed, loaned or stolen, saved or accumulated, and possessing only one prerogative that may be exercised by the individual to whom it is issued; namely that of spending it…

“…Under a Technate, the citizens for the first time would enjoy the exercise of the only power that exists in a modern social mechanism. The power to rule is therefore vested in the power to consume, with equal though not transferable consuming power conferred upon every citizen of the Technate. The decision to exercise that power may be made by any citizen every day in the year if he so desires. No citizen waits for periodic elections to express his opinion or his desire in the social mechanism. He renders his decision every time he purchases any product or service anywhere within the domain of the Technate. All people in a Technocracy receive equal purchasing power; they will require no representative of the people to spend their "money" for them.” (THSS p. 48-49)

Scott seemed to propose to quantify the productive output of the entire “continent” in terms of an energy value, and to then represent, divide and issue that energy value in the form of tokens equally to every citizen.  Their expenditures would represent their votes for what they desired to be produced.

Scott’s outlining of a strictly equalitarian society, with a limited currency meant to facilitate necessary consumption, but not substantial wealth accrual—all administered by impartial Spock-like technocrats—certainly must’ve seemed outlandish at the time to many.

But now, with blueprints like “Agenda 2030,” the rush to CBDCs, and even the prospect of dispassionate “conscious” Artificial Intelligence, the path to something like Scott’s Technate seems plausibly more fleshed out by his spiritual heirs.

Regarding ownership of property, Scott’s view evolved to some extent over time. In the 1920’s, he espoused a neo-Marxist, Klaus Schwab-like view of how a society might “own nothing and be happy”:

“Private property is generally recognized as a burden even today, and few people would want to carry it if they could be rich without having to do so. For the first time in history, though, humanity has a machine at hand which is productive enough to make everybody rich, and it has the technical knowledge at its disposal to run such a machine. All that is necessary is coordination.” 

By the 1940’s, he had somewhat revised his Technate as being a mix, where public property, including productive land, natural resources and “economic processes” would be publicly owned, but where possession of personal items and (scientifically dictated) habitats could be tolerated: 

“...You wouldn't be able to control the production of wheat or cotton or coal or oil or anything else. That would be public property. In other words, you could raise roses if you enjoyed roses, your own books in your home, etc., but you couldn't control the economic processes.” 

In other ways, Scott rejected Marxism along with virtually any political analysis or ideology. Whether Marx or Adam Smith, Scott believed the onset of the technological age had rendered such visions as anachronistic.

He used the example of America’s industrial war effort in the early 1940’s to note:

“The smaller plants can produce several times what the old-fashioned plant did, so that instead of regional planned industrial area expanding hugely, the area shrinks on them. Now, besides that, it reduces the capital payoff time. Something Karl Marx never knew or economists never envisioned. For thousands of years, the time necessary to pay off the interest and principal on a large amortized investment was usually bonded issues with a hundred years to pay. Well, it took that length of time to pay off. The introduction of energy and technology has reduced it toward zero, and reducing the man-hours toward zero and the energy consumed per unit produced tends to go down, etc. While the unemployed tends to rise and unused area tends to rise, or increase, the production will rise and your available capital Rises.” (THSS p. 304) 

Technological Innovation vs Outdated Social Mechanisms

For Scott, molding human society and behavior into a utopian state of efficiency and right behavior was a matter of technological design.

In an early interview, he pointed out that the dangerous practice of people hitching rides on car running boards had been solved not by laws or fines, but when manufacturers stopped including running boards in car designs.

It’s easy to see how Scott might well approve of something like China’s (and the West’s quickly materializing) social credit score system, and the “surveillance and service” visions of smart cities.

But he might also have appreciated things like Decentralized Autonomous Organizations (DAOs), and crypto “smart contract” technology which can automate and ensure input and output decision-making according to code.

Scott believed that technology would disrupt and displace every other institution and mode of influence in society.

Along the way, it would displace humans as work units, like it or not:

“America stands now at the crossroads, confronting the dilemma of alternatives. The progression of a modern industrial social mechanism is unidirectional and irreversible. Physically this continental area has no choice but to proceed with the further elimination of toil through the substitution of energy for man hours. There can be no question of returning to pre machine or pre technological ways of life; a progression once started must continue. Retrogressive evolution does not exist.” (THSS, p. 26)

Robotics and AI at this stage are encroaching virtually every sector, impinging on formerly human livelihoods. Doling out a “basic income” to aid people lacking higher level skills, has been one proposed answer to the problem.

But most people have not seen their own lives made more leisurely in a highly technological world. If anything, average people with decent education and initiative are working harder and longer, while losing ground in terms of physical wealth, including property, housing and even basics like food and energy.

How might Scott explain it?  Actually, he did. Even in the midst of the Depression, he contended that the creation of poverty and want of the time had nothing to do with the industrial or technological capacity of the nation.

He laid the problem at the feet of a warped system of politics and finance.

Scott tagged rampant government debt creation, spiraling taxation and concentration of wealth in corporate entities as being inevitable consequences of an antiquated system of valuation and reward, not a problem of overall productivity.

Perhaps the following passage from 1935 brings to mind some current trends:

“Technocracy's [Scott’s magazine / movement] analysis of the national income shows that there are over [77] million families in the United States, comprising in excess of [180] million human beings, who are dependent upon an income of less than $40.00 per week per family; or, as the Brookings Institute puts it, 1/10 of 1 percent of the families at the top receive as much income as 42 percent of the families at the bottom of the national income scale. 

“It is self-evident that with a larger and larger proportion of our national income being required to bolster the debt structure and to pay government expenses, the rising prices and the cost of living will lower the consuming power of at least 80 million Americans. Life cannot ‘begin’ for these Americans—all that is left is subsistence of a low order.” (THSS p. 33)

As Gerald Celente might say, it represented “a rigged system.”

Scott opined:

“Technocracy has pointed out that a national parade of the dumb, the halt, the lame, and the blind was about to begin. That national parade is on in full swing. We have nationalized Tammany's New Deal, the California Epic Program, old-age pension plans, pleas for social justice, and cries to share the wealth. America might just as well make up its mind that it cannot have economic planning, social justice or guaranteed security under the dominance of a Price System. 

“The political administration of our national affairs is deemed by Technocracy to be totally inadequate and incompetent, irrespective of which political racketeer does the administering. Politics and the financial racketeering of the Price System are blood brothers conceived in the ages of scarcity along with the oxcart, the sickle, the hoe, and the spade; and, like them, they have become as obsolete and must be consigned to historical antiquity.” (THSS p. 33)

Scott believed the financial system of assigning debt to almost exponentially accelerating productivity, was stratifying haves and have-nots, and enriching corporate entities to the detriment of overall human benefit:

“Our forefathers in attempting to guarantee to future Americans life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, placed their hope of fulfillment in political liberty and reckoned not that the day would arrive when the interference control of the Price System would conflict with the development of technology—that America would be compelled to make the rich richer and the poor poorer…

“Our national leaders of the past two decades have always proclaimed the inherent soundness of the Price System. Their voices have always been raised in defending and boosting their own America. Their America was a glorious hunting ground where private corporate enterprise was permitted the privilege of creating debt claims against others faster than they were created against them. It was heads I win, tails you lose; no one else could possibly win. Every consumer was a sucker, legitimate prey for the corporate enterprise of yesterday and today.” (THSS, pg 38-39)

Another evil of America’s reliance on distorted incentives of production for the outsized profit of a relative few, and currency-manipulated finance and banking, was the requisite need to sell to the world.

Scott believed that areas of the world naturally bound by geography should focus on “continental” and not global betterment. It was effectively a “North America Continent First” philosophy. In the wake of WWII in 1947 he opined:

“Under a Technate, we would have no interest in sending our troops or our warships to finagle some foreign territory for the benefit of a bunch of American chiselers. We would make this continent the finest place in the world to live, and the rest of the world could learn from our example here. 

“We would export methods and specifications of continental operation that would be worth something to the world instead of the dollar diplomacy and the dollar goods that we're trying to shove down the throats of the Chinese, the Romanian, the Italians, and the French or anybody else”. (THSS p. 508)

By the 1960’s, Scott was issuing more dire warnings about the worsening effects of America’s bloated domestic tax and governing system, and foreign economic strategies and subsidies:

“The time is running out for this system of ours. We have over 16,000 municipalities and 17,000 townships in the United States, and a little less than 100,000 total governments that are empowered to levy taxes and collect them and to issue debentures. In other words, there has been no major change in the structural operation of the United States in 180 years. Our structure is obsolescent and antique. It is incompetent to take care of the imperatives of this modern world of our day. So, what? We have done some marvelous things in many ways. We've put in installment buying, we've promoted this, we recovered Germany after World War I with the Young Plan and the Dawes Plan and after World War II the Marshall Plan, bolstered up every economy in Europe and some not in Europe. Well, now they're all bolstered up with a lot of new technological equipment and capacities beyond that they ever dreamed of… 

“…Marvelous! This kind of game is about running out. The total debt in the United States just announced is 1.4 trillion. It's increased enormously in the last seven years. The interest on the federal debt this year—that's interest payments—will exceed $15 billion. That's a sizable chunk. The total budget of the United States didn't reach that for more than a century and a half. Well, now we're stuck with it.” (THSS p. 1888-89)

The Decline of the Technical Alliance?

Though Scott believed that politically agnostic technocrats were best suited to employing science to solve the growing imbalance of productive abilities and innovations, and the equitable distribution of wealth created, his organization never attempted to politically organize.

That’s because Scott both despised the workings of politics, and believed the eventual assumption of power of technocrats was inevitable, though humankind might stupidly delay in evolving.

The Technical Alliance grew in number until the late 1940’s, when Scott’s controversial views regarding WWII and other other matters caused his organization to ebb.

Even in his latter years, Scott refused to advocate for any political movement to spur on a Technocracy.

In a broad sense, since Scott’s death in 1970, the world has proceeded substantially in a direction that he outlined, at least in terms of the ascendancy of technocrats. Today, technocrats dominate society to an unprecedented degree.

They are hardly the disinterested Spock-like characters Scott promised, of course. 

Bill Gates, Anthony Fauci, Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Ray Kurzweil, CRISPR gene editing technology co-creator Jennifer Doudna and others may exude a scientific aura in their pronouncements and agendas. But many leading technocrats have been shown to be as subject to megalomania and corruption as any politician, king or religious leader ever was.

Many of them also have long histories of political manipulation to further their own power and objectives. The science-based objectivity that Scott ascribed to technocrats as a class was one of his most persistent and naive conceptions.

As for the ultimate technocrat perhaps being a transhuman or non-human intelligence ala the visions of evangelists like Ray Kurzweil, Scott might well have favored such a development.

But it might be that “consciousness” and self-awareness themselves introduce a will that is subject to temptations of power and evil. In that case, so much for Technocracy as heaven and technocrat—human or otherwise—as benevolent gods.

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3 Comments
  1. Larry Inn 2 months ago

    The concept of private property: Invade a foreign Land, squat on it, and call it my “private property.”

    The privatizer says: This is mine, this is not yours! This is not yours, this is mine. Get off my land.

  2. Gregory Clark 2 months ago

    Great article. I’m thinking that “the kind folks” at the WEF are students of Scott.

  3. Daniel Wakelee 2 months ago

    You’re right to call attention to the founder of this “movement”. You know what kind of movement we have going on here.

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