Before today I'd never heard of Auguste Comte, but here's what Goldberg tells us about him:
...a semimystical French philosopher whose biggest claim to fame was his coinage of the word "sociology." Comte argued that humanity progressed in three stages and that in the final stage mankind would throw off Christianity and replace it with a new "religion of humanity," which married religious fervor to science and reason--even to the extent of making "saints" out of such figures as Shakespeare, Dante, and Frederick the Great. Comte believed that the age of mass industrialization and technocracy would pluck the human mind from the metaphysical realm for good, ushering in an age where pragmatic managers would improve the plight of all based upon man-made morality. He anointed himself the high priest of this atheistic, secular faith, which he called positivism.Does that philosophy sound like anything you hear today? It sure does to me.
Anyway, as I read that I thought back to something I'd seen linked on Instapundit recently:
Nagel concluded that democracies rarely or never elect the best leaders. Their advantage over dictatorships or other forms of government is merely that they "effectively prevent lower-than-average candidates from becoming leaders."Comte's "pragmatic managers." Technocrats. Even benevolent dictatorships (and let's not pretend that a technocracy would be anything but) are doomed to fail, especially when compared to a free market, because no one person or group of persons has access to as much information as the invisible hand of the market has. And that argument is entirely separate from the individual freedom argument, which I find even more compelling.
In modern parlance, "crowdsourcing", whether in the marketplace of products or in the marketplace of leaders, will usually provide a better result than one person's decision will.
Update, 3/6/12: "Government by expert" is incompatible with the rule of law.