The European Model

by Mandrake Eriksen

As with technocratic theory, the design has separated into both the North American and European schools of thought, however as before common ground may be found amongst the principles that both schools of thought share as beginning points. Central to the design of both North American and European technocratic schools is the call for fundamental structural changes to the existing political and economic makeup of industrial society, that the social realm may accurately reflect the physical basis upon which it is built. Presently the North American model is the only in existence that can be said to be complete; however the following lists the beginning points of a European model which is still under development. It should be noted that the North American model has been used as a beginning point itself, the influence of which is indicated below:

Crucial concepts

1. Influence of technology [American] and social change [European]

The key observation of the technocratic doctrine is the role of high energy technology in forging the material wealth of industrial societies. As a theoretical foundation, the North Americans sought to use this influence to create a model of society in which the human adapted to physical changes in society, such as the incorporation of load factor analysis in determining resource and technology use. Social change in a sense was to occur as a structural response to changes in the physical operating characteristics of infrastructure and the engineering of the social environment. The European model incorporates the physical changes to the social realm also, but proposes that social change occur concurrently as a dynamic element of technological change instead of a response. This derives from the theory that ideas and values influence human behaviour in addition to the physical characteristics of society.

2. Absolute abundance [American] becomes Relative abundance [European]

The original technocrats proposed that an abundance of material resources, technology and trained personnel existed in the industrial society of North America during the 1930's, which demanded an economic model that reflected this abundance. The so called abundance was derived from the observation that there existed the capacity to produce more goods than could be consumed by the population, and that the abundance of energy resources such as oil, coal and gas was the prime driving force behind this apparent abundance. The European model recognizes the need to incorporate not only the availability and quantity of resources but also the dynamic equilibrium that exists between resources, population and the renewal of resources for continued use. Thus 'relative abundance' is utilized as a term to indicate the relative balance of resources to that which can be effectively produced, consumed and returned to the production cycle.

3. Energy accounting [American] and alternative methods of distribution [European]

Proposed as an alternative to money and a means to track the consumption of goods and services, energy accounting characterizes one of the central distributive approaches to economics that the early technocrats made. Energy accounting was intended as a means to track the energy expended in the production of goods as a ratio of the extraneous energy available for the total production of goods over a given geographical region, of which an equal portion was to be provided to consumers. It was stated that, given the abundance put forward in the prior argument, consumers would find themselves with more energy 'credit' than they could possibly consume. The European model recognizes that energy accounting is applicable only to the production and distribution of very large quantities of goods, and that other realms of the economy (such as services) are not readily applicable to energy accounting practices given the difficulties in quantifying them in a meaningful manner. In addition to this development, the European model has begun to recognize the role of exchange and distribution in shaping human motivational behaviours, and refined the energy accounting role to one of managing the energy resources of an economy rather than distributing them.

4. Dynamic equilibrium and sustainable development [European]

A new addition to technocratic analyses is the inclusion of ecological and climate concerns into the physical analysis of the social realm. Key among these analyses is the recognition that issues of energy availability, climate change and ecology represent a unified issue in terms of the flow of resources from the earth to industrial society, and eventually back to the environment. This element of the European model recognizes the requirement to reduce the dependence on non-renewable and cost-externalized resources in order for the social realm to continue to develop.

5. Consumerist paradise [American] in light of ecological footprints and enlightened immaterialism [European]

The original North American model proposed that individuals would be given the greatest freedoms to both behave and consume as they pleased. Among the means by which people would receive such freedoms would be the free distribution of goods and services based on the approach of energy accounting. Given the assertion of abundance, it was said that people would not be physically limited by scarcity of resources as they are in a price system. The European model emphasises that the original model based this assumption on the availability of mainly fossil fuels, the mass use of in the present day would be not only foolish but highly untenable due to the increasing scarcity of said fuels and the impact these fuels have on climate and ecology. Tied into the notion of concurrent social change with technological change, it is proposed that a general change in philosophy and ideas about consumption is required in order to bring about positive social change.

6. Functional use of available resources [American] and feedback of resources to maximize their functional utility [European]

Central to both the philosophy and design of the North American technate was the efficient use of resources to maximize the abundance of goods and services. As a development of this, the European model seeks to do this with not only the functional use of available resources, but the feedback of these resources in closed infrastructural loops in order to maximize the absolute functional utility of all resources. This includes the conservation of resources in order to maximize their utility, in addition to the reduction of waste.

7. Meritocracy [American] and Democracy [European]

Perhaps the most well known of technocratic theses is the proposal that scientists and engineers manage society in a role akin to that of politicians. The original North American model proposed that a hierarchical distribution of experts would manage the technical aspects of society, which was taken to include not only the production and distribution of goods and services, but also the judiciary, police and military. Politics was to be dealt away with due to it's inherent inefficiency to manage the economy, and to ward away the danger of populism in dealing with largely physical matters that had their root in scientific analyses rather than popular consent. The European model proposes that although a meritocratic distribution of experts to manage economic matters on a physical or thermodynamic basis is necessary in such a design, there exists areas of society to which individuals must have the power to influence, lest they become unregulated agents of tyranny. These areas focus on the social arena and largely involve collective decisions that relate to the values and ideas of said collective groups, including access to a democratic and impartial judicial system.

8. Centralized [American] becomes decentralized [European]

Extending from the meritocratic structure of decision making, the North American model proposed that the operation of an entire technate would occur on the basis of a hierarchy of engineers and scientists covering an entire continental area. Said engineers would manage the infrastructure of the continent according to this hierarchy, and distribute goods and services from a central point of command. Developments in the European model have focused on de-centralizing this hierarchy into smaller co-operative units distributed over large geographical regions. The rationale behind this approach is to maximize the autonomy of smaller communities while maintaining the interdependence necessary for the large scale operation of a technological mechanism.

9. Hierarchical [American] and co-operative [European]

The distribution of power and authority in the original design was largely pyramidal, extending to a tip at the head of the technate where decisions would be made upon all aspects of society, using impersonal scientific methods. The European model recognizes the need to diffuse power and authority horizontally in order to encourage co-operation, and lateralize responsibility.

10. Provincialism [American] and internationalism [European]

The original model called for the establishment of a Technate over a limited geographical area, notably a continent. Also limited in this model was the extent to which the technate interacted with it's neighbours and other states/technates. The European model teeters between such provincialism and a more international approach.