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Democracy, which literally means “rule of the people” in Greek, is today’s preferred form of government. However, Americans have become disillusioned with the current American form of democracy. A scientific study even showed that America is not a democracy, but an oligarchy, or the “rule of the few” in Greek. Could a technocracy (rule of the skilled) be a solution?

The majority of American politicians have a background in law, which helps navigate the vast legal landscape required to pass laws. However, the majority of Chinese politicians in China’s National People’s Congress, the Chinese counterpart to the United States Congress, are engineers and scientists. It’s not just the rank-and-file politicians—many high-ranking Chinese politicians, such as former President Hu Jintao and current President Xi Jinping, have backgrounds in science and technology. Given China’s rapid economic rise in the past decade, could America duplicate China’s effort and put science and technology at the forefront of American economic progress?

While technocracy had a small yet significant following in the 1930s as a result of the Great Depression, it did not gain much public support. Technocracy Inc., one of the main technocratic movements at the time, was led by Howard Scott, who founded the Technical Alliance in 1919 and Technocracy Inc. in 1933. Scott’s ideas were revolutionary for his time, a time where Americans desperately needed practical solutions to the numerous problems facing them, but his inexperience at public speaking doomed the movement.

Scott and his followers proposed the following: “Technocracy is the science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population of this continent. For the first time in human history it will be done as a scientific, technical, engineering problem. There will be no place for Politics or Politicians, Finance or Financiers, Rackets or Racketeers.”

According to William E. Akin, a historian who has followed the technocracy movement with his 1977 book Technocracy and the American Dream: The Technocracy Movement 1900-1941, the American Engineering Council strongly opposed the Scott-led technocrat movement: “The technocrats made a believable case for a kind of technological utopia, but their asking price was too high. The idea of political democracy still represented a stronger ideal than technological elitism. In the end, critics believed that the socially desirable goals that technology made possible could be achieved without the sacrifice of existing institutions and values and without incurring the apocalypse that technocracy predicted,” he said.

Today, many Americans from both the left and the right decry the presence of so-called “career politicians” and the overreaching of business and finance interests into the public space, particularly in the form of lobbyists. In addition, today’s political landscape is very divided amongst Democrat and Republican party lines. However, technocracy might be a force of true change—at least in theory—because of its practical, hands-on approach to problem-solving, and can be an issue both parties can espouse.

Some people, however, think technocracy lacks the human element and can never be implemented properly in society. “It’s time to do away with the term ‘technocratic.’ It creates a category of policies which are The Right Thing To Do, yet the rightness of the policies aren’t tested against anything. They aren’t tested against democracy (messy pesky voters!) or results (the economy sucks, technocrats, and this is your doing),” said liberal blogger Duncan Bowen Black, who goes by the pseudonym Atrios.

However, Mother Jones‘ Kevin Drum spoke up in defense of some aspects of a technocracy. “It’s true, I think, that it (technocrat) also suggests a kind of person who’s not influenced by the corruption of politics and has no partisan axe to grind, so in that sense it’s positive,” he said. This means that even if it were impractical to do it immediately, technocracy could still be implemented at some level in American politics, but probably not to the extent that it has been implemented in Chinese politics.

Carly Fiorina, the former CEO of tech company Hewlett-Packard, is running for president in 2016, and intends to widely use technology if she is elected. “Our founders never intended us to have a professional political class,” Fiorina said in a campaign video. “They believed that citizens and leaders needed to step forward. We know the only way to re-imagine our government is to re-imagine who is leading it.” Fiorina, who has also worked at tech companies such as AT&T and Lucent, has demonstrated her flair for tech by using Periscope, a video streaming app, to interact with voters.

“I understand technology, which is a tool, both to re-imagine government and to re-engage citizens in the process of government. And I understand executive decision-making, which is making a tough call in a tough time with high stakes, for which you’re prepared to be held accountable,” Fiorina said to Good Morning America. Fiorina is facing a crowded Republican field with many politicians running, such as Jeb Bush, the brother of former President George W. Bush, as well as Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, Scott Walker, and more, making Fiorina’s candidacy—which espouses some technocratic principles—a bit more daring.

Although technocracy may lack the human element, convincing the American people it would work at some level requires eloquent public speakers to back it, and its implementation might not be as dramatic as Scott once envisioned. Although science and technology has played a bigger role in American politics than before, it still has to leave some intangibles up to the current system of politics.

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