April 29, 2005


Why does New Labour stand for nothing?: Blair-bashers ignore New Labour's roots in both its party, and its times. (Josie Appleton, 4/29/05, Spiked)

The features of New Labour so harped upon by critics - its arrogance, superficiality, and managerialism - can all be derived from the fact that it grew in a political vacuum. These weren't traits that the party intentionally sought; indeed, the founders of New Labour went to great lengths to find a substantial, defining concept to keep it together and command people's allegiance.

In search of the 'vision thing'

New Labour looked long and hard for a defining vision. But its problem was that it was little more than a collection of talented and motivated individuals, not a movement with deep roots in society. As such, it drifted from one idea to another, lacking an anchor or an established course.

Blair's regime came in the wake of the collapse of left and right. As a result, it was principally defined by what it was not - not old left, not Thatcherite right, not the past - rather than what it was. It could say what had failed, but found it more difficult to say what would work instead. The result was a pick-and-mix of policies: when he took over as leader, Blair talked about 'breaking through old left-right barriers', saying in 1995 that 'New Labour is neither old left nor new right. We understand and welcome the new global market. We reject go-it-alone policies on inflation and the macro-economy. We stand for a new partnership between government and industry'.

New Labour ideologue Anthony Giddens argued that the Third Way was about 'reconciling opposites', bringing together concepts such as state and market, equality and diversity, rights and responsibility, which had previously been heralded by different political camps. But the primary reason that New Labour could unite these ideas is that they no longer meant anything in society. Because there was no left proposing state socialism, and no right defending the free market, it was easy to say: okay, let's have both. When political movements aren't demanding their right to protest, there appears to be no contradiction between rights and responsibilities. But the fact is that, once these words are no longer political battle cries, they lack broader resonance.

The ties that bound 'the Project' were personal rather than political. Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell and Philip Gould went on holiday with one another, and thought up policies in each other's houses and French villas. Because they were working in a vacuum, they saw the development of new political ideas as a question of brainstorming. In his account of the period, The Unfinished Revolution, Gould is constantly moaning that 'we still lacked a defining concept'; 'we needed a central compelling argument'. He and fellow New Labourite David Miliband sat up late at night wondering: what could this defining concept be? Where could they find it?

If they clicked their fingers and got into the right mood, perhaps they could just dream up a new politics. The New Labour phrase was Gould's in 1989: 'I suggested a concept to get Labour on its feet again. I called it New Labour.' The phrase 'A new life for Britain' was invented by Campbell, sitting with Gould on a beach in Majorca - Campbell can also take the credit for the 1997 election slogan 'New Labour, New Britain'. It was Tony Blair's idea to make a show out of abolishing Clause Four, to show definitively that the party had changed.

But while the old Clause Four reflected the ambitions of mass movements in society, the new one was entirely the product of Blair's imagination. Gould describes the debates about the form of the new Clause Four: 'Matters came to a head one Sunday afternoon with Tony Blair sitting on his bed, Alastair Campbell, Jonathan Powell and David Miliband perched around the room, while Blair's daughter Kathryn's party going on downstairs.' In the end, they couldn't agree on the answer, except that they didn't like the draft that had been drawn up by the Labour policy team. In the end, Blair wrote it himself.

Brainstorming can't provide a new politics; if words don't represent movements in society, they are only words. New Labour may have made an effort to be serious and inspiring, but it could only come up with fluff. Compare the old and the new versions of Clause Four. The old was: 'To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.' While it leaves open the form and means of achieving this 'best obtainable' system, the clause is concrete and concise, and would spark disagreement among political rivals.

By contrast, the new Clause Four is vague and inoffensive, as if you had asked the manager of the local charity shop to list their beliefs. It goes: 'The Labour Party is a democratic socialist party. It believes that by the strength of our common endeavour we achieve more than we achieve alone, so as to create for each of us the means to realise our true potential and for all of us a community in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few. Where the rights we enjoy reflect the duties we owe. And where we live together, freely, in a spirit of solidarity, tolerance and respect.' Most Labour Party members, even MPs, would struggle to remember this.

To mark the tenth anniversary of Blair's first conference speech as leader, when he called for Clause Four to be scrapped, the Fabian Society solicited suggestions for a Clause Four mark three. No doubt partly miffed because the original clause was the work of its old leader, the Fabian Society nonetheless touched a truth in its statement that: 'There is little in the Labour party's statement of values that is seriously objectionable to anyone from the mainstream of British politics. Labour Party members cannot identify enthusiastically with the new Clause because it misses out key elements of what makes politics important to them.'

New Labour's lack of roots led to its strange new language, which tends to resist direct translation. When terms are concocted by an isolated political elite, rather than drawn from common currency, it's no surprise that they are elusive and jargonised. Take the 'progressive consensus', for example, Tony Blair and chancellor Gordon Brown's current description of their project, which seems to be something to do with everybody going forward together.

A number of commentators have noted that Blair's habit of leaving verbs out of sentences makes it unclear exactly who is going to do what to whom. 'Your family better off', 'your child achieving more', 'your community safer', read Labour's 2005 election pledges, as if these things could somehow just occur of their own accord. Vague, feel-good adjectives have multiplied, as have terms for efficient-sounding procedures. In the current Labour manifesto there is a promise to 'make the contract of rights and responsibilities an enduring foundation of community life', to 'strengthen clinical governance in the NHS', and to 'build new ladders of social mobility and advancement on the firm foundations of stability, investment and growth'.

When New Labour tries to put the rhetoric into practice, it crashes against the hard rocks of reality. The Millennium Dome was supposed to be a 'spiritual beacon', an 'opportunity for renewal' - in Blair's words, 'Britain's opportunity to greet the world with a celebration so bold, so beautiful, so inspiring…'. But it's one thing to say you want to give Britain a new sense of purpose, another thing entirely to display that purpose before the nation. Mandelson trotted off around the world looking for ideas, even meeting Mickey Mouse in Disneyland. But somehow that elusive vision just couldn't be found.


The only New Labour ideas with solid content weren't political at all. Instead, they were about managerialism, and the reduction of politics to the day-to-day grind of administering society. 'Modernisation', 'social inclusion', 'community' - all of these key New Labour ideas are basically about keeping society ticking over and holding alienated individuals together. New Labour thinkers defined the point of politics in prosaic terms. In his 1996 book The Blair Revolution, Peter Mandelson said that Blair was 'working through a credible strategy for successful government'. In 1997, New Labour adviser Geoff Mulgan said in Life After Politics that politics was 'a way to solve problems and…a means of providing security and a stable sense of belonging'. The pledge cards with which Labour fought the 1997 election promised small, tangible improvements to the running of things.

Anthony Giddens' The Third Way is perhaps one of the most dispiriting documents in existence: it's basically an instruction manual, a series of sociological recommendations for how it would be possible to run society. Giddens weighs up every issue not on its principles but on its contribution to social order. Meritocracy might seem like a good idea, he says, but it 'would create deep inequalities of income, which would threaten social cohesion'. In another section he ponders which type of family structure would be best: the traditional family is long gone, but you wouldn't want too many unconventional families because of the evidence suggesting that these aren't good for children. Better go for the middle ground, a 'democratised family' that is open and negotiable but where both sides have a sense of responsibility.

As Alan Finlayson argues in his perceptive study, Making Sense of New Labour, the Third Way was a 'description of the present society that could also provide an ethic'; 'political thought is subordinated to sociology'. The Third Way reflects the end of the 'politics of redemption' - rather than aiming towards a transformation in society, it merely seeks to 'update' politics to 'a changed world'.

But the point isn't that New Labour suffered from a pathological lack of imagination, or that its leaders had managerial personalities. Instead, the Third Way reflected the general state of political exhaustion at the turn of end of the twentieth century. With the cessation of the battle between left and right, there was no longer any fundamental choice about how society should be organised. Margaret Thatcher's TINA - there is no alternative - became the order of the day. But while for Thatcher TINA embodied the confidence of free-market fundamentalism, TINA quickly came to represent a shoulder-shrugging acceptance that market economy is here to stay - though nobody was very enthusiastic about it.

Political horizons were lowered to tinkering with what exists. Hence this gloomy prediction from Francis Fukuyama's 1992 End of History: 'The end of history will be a very sad time…. [T]he worldwide ideological struggle that called forth daring, courage, imagination, and idealism, will be replaced by economic calculation, the endless solving of technical problems, environmental concerns, and the satisfaction of sophisticated consumer demands. In the post-historical period there will be neither art nor philosophy, just the perpetual caretaking of the museum of human history.' This wasn't just about Blair; it was about the zeitgeist. What New Labour did was turn the temper of the time into a how-to manual for government.

What's most striking here is how similar it all is to the rise and fall of Clintonism and how the same thing could happen to the GOP were a mere technocrat--someone like Rudy Giuliani--to take over the party. What George Bush was able to do--and his successors can easily follow his lead--is to ground the conservative version of the Third Way in the Judeo-Christianity of the culture and the Founding, tapping into the vision that runs deep in the culture--the Biblical vision of a people who have liberty but are obligated to use that liberty to improve society and the lives of their neighbors and to live morally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at April 29, 2005 9:46 AM

The Third Way is the old-line socialists rationalization for statism, a kinder, gentler version although statism nonetheless. The power of the statist parties lies in the managerial, bureacratic and administrative infrastructure built over the last century. It doesn't work although it acts as the power base for the left or what remains of the left. In light of it's unworkability, it needs to be justified and Giddens supplies the muddleheaded justification through platitudes and social science gibberish. The nature of the state and the just powers of the state are avoide topics since the hard questions regarding it's competency would need to be addressed in much the same way the founders of the American republic wrestled with those issues. There is no 'third way' for the modern era, only societies based on ordered liberty and limited government or state sponsored and directed, social engineering projects based on utopian longings fanned by political opportunism. Anything else is just a feeble attempt to maintain power through an attempt to marry the two polarities.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 10:58 AM

Tom: OJ's a statist. I think it's only religion that stops him from being a leftist, which is an interesting demonstration of one of the themes of the blog.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 11:15 AM


You may be right. His commentary is sensible and his heart is in the right place although the idea that the workability of this 'third way' stuff is entirely dependent on keeping a particular 'technocrat' away from the levers of power speaks volumes about his blind spot regarding the nature of government and the state.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 11:30 AM

Humankind has an urge for security, so there'll always be a state. Christ commands us to love another, so we're obligated to help provide. The idea that the state will wither is contrary to both human nature and God's plan for us. You can either whine about reality or try to improve the inevitable system that results.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 11:35 AM


The purpose of the state is to act as the repository the coercive power. It is deleagted the necessary and just power or that which should not be wielded by individuals acting in narrow self interest. It is the only power capable of acting in the collective interest over and above the interests of majorities or powerful minorities or individuals. It serves the 'general' interests rather than those of some over others. Christianity makes a distinction between the state and the individual and directs us as individuals since we are to be judged as individuals. Our intentions are unimportant, only our faith and our actions driven by our faith as individuals have any redemptive meaning. Directing the coercive power of the state to do that which one should already be doing for his family, his neighbor and his community is not part of Christ's teaching.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 12:01 PM


Christ teaches us that we won't do what we should.

It doesn't matter anyway though because most people want the state to provide them some financial security, so it will. All that's left to discuss is how it does so, a discussion you're left out of if you injsist on ideological purity. That's how Republicans lost for seventy years.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 12:04 PM

Great post Tom.

Posted by: BJW at April 29, 2005 12:05 PM


So, why do you think those operating under the mantle of the state will 'do what (they) should'?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 12:11 PM


I agree. I find it difficult to come around to the view that when Christ told us to help each other, he meant outsourcing that help to massive federal bureauocracies.

What I find most interesting is OJ's visceral aversion to outsourcing compassion to faceless robots in contrast to his strong support for outsourcing compassion to government appartchiks. Frankly, I'd rather have the robots.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at April 29, 2005 12:13 PM

We do. The point is we now have a consensus that it can be done better using free market (conservative) methods to achieve those security (liberal) ends.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 12:21 PM


No one is insisting on ideological purity other than you. The nature of the state is the issue. I'm just pointing out the dangers of attaching oneself to any worldly ideology in answer to the other 'gods that failed'.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 12:27 PM

Okay, as long as we're agreed that statism is inevitable.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 12:32 PM


To the contrary, FBI outsources it to churches, but taxes you nonbelievers to pay for it.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 12:40 PM


If statism is inevitable, and it may be, so is the corruption and misuse of power that goes along with it.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 12:57 PM

Yes, big deal.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:00 PM

The state is inevitable. Statism isn't.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 1:02 PM

The state is inevitable. Statism isn't.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 1:06 PM

We've run the experiment more than a few times in more than a few places and the results are always the same. Politics just comes down to how you use the state.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:11 PM

You have been blessed with a sheltered life.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 1:11 PM

F.Y.I.: By statism, here at least, we're talking about it in the sense that econocons use it:


Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:16 PM


Of course I have, I'm a white male Protestant American. None of us much need the state.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:19 PM

Sheltered in terms of dealings with corruption and the misuse of power. Of course you or I don't need the state, the state needs us.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 1:44 PM


Great post above.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at April 29, 2005 1:52 PM


So if our statism has produced only the level of corruption and abuse that we can happily live with and the Third Way is a means of reducing that statism then I'm afraid you've lost me.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 1:57 PM

Thanks, Jeff, bjw.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 1:59 PM


I want less and you'd be happy with more of the same.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 2:14 PM

How do you figure?

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 2:17 PM

The 'third way' as described above, won't.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 2:21 PM

Christ teaches us that we won't do what we should.

All the more reason not to concentrate power in the hands of those who will "do what they shouldn't" to you and me under the implied credibility (inevitability?) of the State.

I'm w/ Tom & David on this one.

Posted by: John Resnick at April 29, 2005 2:24 PM

There's no difference between privatized SS and SS or between HSAs and Medicare or between 1990s Welfare and the Welfare Reform Act, or vouchers for DC schools, etc.?

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 2:26 PM

The state isn't them, it's us.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 2:31 PM

Of course there is a difference but the 'third way' entails more than that, aside from the fact that all is well barring the technocracy's rise to power.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at April 29, 2005 2:32 PM

What more is George Bush trying to do that you object to?

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 2:37 PM

Many of us (some republicans) are voting for the Republican Party because that party
is the "lesser of two evils". OJ, you sometimes seem to be argueing forcefully for the
"third way", which I would read as making the lesser evil more like the greater evil. Not my preference. By the way you may be more perceptive of what the public wants, than I am. (of course evil is inappropiate word when discussing your desires anyway)

Posted by: h-man at April 29, 2005 3:21 PM

Composing in my mind, I started with "Of course there's a difference," and then came to Tom's post. Social security with private accounts is better than social security because it means, ultimately, the end of social security. Vouchers are good because they mean the end of the public school monopoly and the political leverage of the teachers' unions. HSA's are different, because they won't mean the end of medicare, but they will reduce medicare and there's no bad reason for tax-free savings accounts.

None of those are the third-way, nor is GWB a third-way president. First, the third-way is a term of art used by European socialists (and Ted Kennedy and Bill Clinton) to try to salvage something of their ideology after its collapse in the 80s and 90s. It's a way to avoid the logic and demonstrated success of the liberal market economy. As you, too, dislike the liberal market economy, you are naturally attracted to it.

Adding compassionate to conservatism is not the same as a lefty arguing for a third-way. As you've noted so often, what the president is trying to do is to find a way to political compromise in which he seems to give up things he doesn't really care about in order to slip a poison pill into a program. The president, oddly for a conservative, is adopting an incrementalist philosophy and a long-term strategy. If America really is getting more conservative, as I think we both believe, than this is a winning strategy.

You can call in compassionate conservatism, or the third way, but, as we've noted here before, the president's goal is to undo the New Deal.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 4:09 PM

Yes, but the Right's ideology collapsed in '29. All the Third Way/compassionate conservatism does is provide a state guarantee of services but delivered to the greatest extent possibly by private means.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 4:28 PM


It doesn't matter what we'd want in an ideal world. Left and Right are permanent.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 4:30 PM

So Reagan, too, was a third-wayer?

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 4:43 PM


You are equating the European 'third way' stuf with the president's attempt to end the New Deal and return power to individuals and their communities in a realistic and incremental fashion. He should be supported. Understand that Giddens rationalization is not the same thing and Tony Blair and New Labor's belief that there is a Third Way between the overweening buraecratic state and ordered liberty is nothing but rhetoric meant to justify a high tax, regulatory regime populated by a state supported and counterproductive bureacracy with it's own interests. I honestly hope that president Bush has not been taken in by the claptrap. By the reaction of the Democratic Party and their refusal so far to compromise on the common sense issue of private accounts it appears as if they believe that he knows exactly what he is doing.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 5:07 PM


No, Reagan was perfectly content with SS as it was. He was very much a child of the Depression. Margaret Thatcher is more the precursor of both Blair and Bush.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 5:11 PM


The government is going to collect your taxes and make you invest them in private enterprise. That's the Third Way.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 5:13 PM

Reagan knew that there was a problem with social security, where do you think this "third rail of politics" slogan came from? The time was not right.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 5:15 PM


Tony Blair is an ally. His views regarding domestic issues are wrong. George Bush is not Tony Blair.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 5:21 PM

It's never the time, is it.

The difference is that Bush is doing what Clinton and Blair merely spoke of.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 5:25 PM

uh.. Reagan had a senate majority for 2? years and the cold war needed to be brought to an end. I think he had other, more pressing priorities.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 5:31 PM

Clinton and Blair were using third-way rhetoric to give them cover for continuing the socialist program that had been proven unworkable and counterproductive. The president is trying to end those socialist programs. It is not the same thing.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 5:34 PM


That's right--it's putting their rhetoric into practice. The reason they didn't is because it serves the Right more than the Left.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 6:02 PM


Sure, there are always excuses.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 6:03 PM

I'm with the Juice on this one.

Posted by: Chris Durnell at April 29, 2005 7:14 PM


So's your old man. Just kidding. You are a funny guy.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 7:34 PM

It's using their rhetoric against them. Very nicely, too.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 7:39 PM


Yes, we make their rhetoiric a reality, to their chagrin, and apparently yours.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 8:05 PM


The rhetoric is in support of social/statism with a human face. Long term, it's a loser.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 29, 2005 8:37 PM

You just said you support it when the President does it.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 8:44 PM

And thus there is no third-way, and the president is not a third-wayer. He's not going to implement high gas taxes, he's not going to pay any attention at all to Kyoto and he's probably going to kill Amtrak.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 29, 2005 9:57 PM

None of those are Third Way. Third Way is stuff he supports like trading pollution credits--government force that allows for market forces.

Posted by: oj at April 29, 2005 11:27 PM

So the third-way is what Milton Freedman's been preaching? All markets are made by government force. The most basic requirement for a market is enforceable contracts, and they only exist where the government wants them to. That's just plain old first-way stuff.

Posted by: David Cohen at April 30, 2005 12:04 AM

Sure, if he espouses universal mandatory contracts--for education, retirement, health care, unemployment insurance, etc.--and limited choices within them.

Posted by: oj at April 30, 2005 12:08 AM

Near as I can tell, oj is not a statist. But he is also not a Social Darwinist. He supports many "liberal" goals (personal security goals), provided they are pursued through market-based, maximally-decentralized, non-bureaucratic strategies (personal freedom strategies). That might be called the Fourth Way, as it's definitely not an effort to protect traditonal government programs. Call him quixotic, but he's not the only one.

Posted by: ghostcat at April 30, 2005 12:18 AM

Great discussion. In Orrin's defence, almost the entire voting public will insist society find a way to provide three things for just about everyone: baseline medical care, education and some support for the aged. It is very hard to imagine any modern politician making headway unless he or she has a "plan" or policy on these, and "You're on your own" isn't a plan. Nor is dreaming about private charity taking over. These are the three things just about every revolutionary regime in the 20th century rode to power on and the plinth on which the left built its political and intellectual dominance for so many years. Wouldn't they just love the right to come out against them?

If anyone who sees government as having an ultimate or lead responsibility on these things is by definition a statist, then we're almost all statists now. Surely the modern battle is over state (and judicial) management of our private, family, community and even religious lives. How and where Orrin draws his lines on these issues is, like creation and what women really want, one of life's enduring mysteries.

Posted by: Peter B at April 30, 2005 6:53 AM


I'm not sure he draws any lines, as long as a 'technocrat like Giuliani' is kept from leading the Republican party. The politics of the whimsical.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at April 30, 2005 10:02 AM

Even Reagan disparaged Social Security - remember when he talked about families taking care of older members (back in the day)?

It didn't take much insight to see in 1982/83 that the numerical problems we see in 2005 were closer than most would admit (even after the 75 year "fix").

But Medicare - that is the gorilla NO one is willing to wrestle. Appease, yes. But tackle, no.

The whole Third Way discussion is likely to be blown apart by an issue outside the template (i.e., immigration or war over Taiwan, NK, etc.).

I wouldn't call Guiliani a "technocrat", but rather a policrat. He may be electable, but he might do for the GOP what Clinton did for the Democrats. For sure, he would have a very awkward relationship with the base, even if he were to win 40 states in 2008. However, of all the GOP possibilities, Rudy is the most likely to raise taxes and preen for the media, which makes him more than just 'whimsical'.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 2, 2005 12:28 AM


I've never thoght of Rudy as a technocrat either, that was oj's characterization. I'm not even sure what a technocrat is other than one committed to the social sciences and politics. Third Wayers and socialists come immediately to mind.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 2, 2005 1:49 PM

The opposite: someone almost without a politics, who doesn't believe in anything but making government function more smoothly. Rudy is a GOP version of Dukakis.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 2:06 PM

The opposite? To call Dukakis a technocrat or a practical, unideological statesman/politician is wacky.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 2, 2005 3:03 PM

Rudy strikes me as being what Richard Nixon strove to be (but never could).

Of course, minus 9/11, Rudy would be a footnote in politics, due pretty much entirely to the helplessness of David Dinkins.

Dukakis wanted to be perceived as a technocrat. It didn't work.

John McCain has the same desire, although he is much more hot-headed. It won't work for him, either. Americans view the technocrats with suspicion (like they did Adlai Stevenson).

E.g., Bill Clinton may have wanted to govern as a technocrat, but he certainly didn't risk running as one. Al Gore tried to (at least for a while), and look what it got him. Quite an underwhelming response.

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 2, 2005 4:00 PM

Why the term technocrat? If you're trying to describe statesmanship why not use the word? Technocrat has the same smell as 'third way'. They're both examples of ivory tower meaninglessness. If you're a politician and a micromanager and socialism is out of fashion call yourself a Third Wayist. It is, for lack of a better term, crap.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 2, 2005 5:51 PM

Because technocrats don't believe in anything but their own superiority at managment. Neither Dukakis nor Ruday has any real core beliefs.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 6:08 PM

Dukakis understood that the administrative/bureaucratic state is the source of power for politicians like himself. Bureaucracies are accountable to themselves and a diversion for the disatification of the electorate.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 2, 2005 8:24 PM

All politicians understand that. Technocrats just want to run the bureaucracy better.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 8:31 PM


The vast majority of politicians can't see past the next election, raising their salaries and benefits while increasing their influence and their paid staff. Statesman are 1 in a thousand.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 2, 2005 8:42 PM

Actually the technocrats tend to be rather parsimonious where tax expenditures on themselves are concerned and very goo-goo.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 8:44 PM

Examples, please.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 2, 2005 9:16 PM


Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 9:24 PM

Is it fair to say that Gray Davis ran as a 'better' governmental manager? Didn't work out too well for him, either.

OJ's description of "goo-goo" is quite apt. People who run on their bureaucratic 'expertise' almost always get eaten by the tiger. Bush 41 had a bit of that problem (the best resume ever), and so do people like Dick Gephardt, even when it is manifestly obvious that they have never accomplished anything and (more importantly) have never inspired others to follow them. Kerry is another example, although the dynamics of last year's campaign did not allow for such a discussion (his attendance record).

Posted by: jim hamlen at May 2, 2005 11:17 PM

Yes, Davis was a quintessential technocrat.

Posted by: oj at May 2, 2005 11:20 PM

Davis nearly destroyed California. Taxes, budgets and the regulatory, bureacratic infrastructure grew at alarming rates because he believed it was in his and his party's interest for them to do so. The NASDAQ collapse sealed his fate. Short-sighted and supremely self-interested is no way to govern.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 3, 2005 8:21 AM


No one said they were good at it.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 8:31 AM

"...someone almost without politics,..interested in making the governmsnt run more smoothly..."
"...technocrats just want to run the beauracracy better."

You left out 'disintersted, competent, managerial'. Yet, Davis was the quintessential technocrat?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 10:49 AM

Yes. Where you get competent I have no idea.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 11:02 AM

Rudy was competent. Davis was not. Dukakis, I doubt it.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 11:31 AM

rudy was in the right place at the right time.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 11:48 AM

The left hated rudy.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 11:53 AM

The left hated rudy from the beginning. Cleaning up Times Square and cracking down on crime was the reason. Pre- 9/11 he was reviled. That's good enough for me.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 11:55 AM

No they didn't. They live in NYC and liked having it safe. Rudy got credit for it.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 11:58 AM


I lived and worked there at the time. They hated him. Stopping the pogroms did work in his favor with some on the upper west side, however.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 12:02 PM

He was popular until he started supporting Bush.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 12:10 PM

The NYC left is a different animal. They were nostaligc for the 60's 70's New York. I'm not making this up. Getting ticketed for smoking pot, removing hookers from the street, rezoning the pornography districts and the like really disturbed these folks.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 12:19 PM

They voted for him.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 12:23 PM

The point is that they became supporters after being shown the error of their ideological ways. Rudy was a statesman in the sense that he stuck to his principles in spite of noisy opposition (the NYT in particular)from the screwball, NYC left. The unions, the press and the civil liberties types bent to the mayors' will and the people of the city are better off.

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford,Ct. at May 3, 2005 1:57 PM

So they didn't hate him.

Posted by: oj at May 3, 2005 2:01 PM

They didn't like the direction he was going until they saw that it was better for the quality of life in the city. Leftists don't know what good for them. You're surprised?

Posted by: Tom C., Stamford, Ct. at May 3, 2005 5:22 PM