Another government is possible. Interview to Parag Khanna

«Democracy is in crisis wherever people feel that democracy alone is sufficient to ensure good governance. But it is not».

Limits of current Western democracies and virtues of a direct technocracy and collective presidency are some of the issues developed in the new book of international relations expert – indicated from magazine Esquire as one of the seventy-five most influential people of the world – Parag Khanna, La rinascita delle città-Stato. In che direzione dovrebbe andare l'Europa? («Technocracy in America»), published in Italy by Fazi Editore with translation of Franco Motta.

Democracy can generate tyranny. Plato put it to next-to-last level of degeneration of political regimes. Parag Khanna, is democracy in crisis today?

A strong and competent state is the true agent of delivery of welfare to citizens. Democracy is simply how citizens express their preferences. And because they have such contradictory views, and minorities can hijack systems, democracy can indeed slide into tyranny as Plato argued.

Do you agree with jurist Lawrence Lessig? America is a fund-ocracy?

Yes, without a doubt. All the key political figures spend as much or more time raising money for elections as legislating or meeting with their constituents. Furthermore, the very process of determining candidates is driven by fundraisers. So on both levels, Lessig is correct.

Could be scenario development a right approach? Could Brexit have been avoided because of it?

Absolutely. Scenario planning is an essential tool for all governments to identify the issues they need to better prepare for in the future such as technology disruptions, geopolitical risks and economic competition. If the British civil service had been empowered to do honest scenarios on the costs of Brexit before the vote, then surely the public would have voted differently. Britain has and will continue to suffer immensely from the dismantling of its qualified and competent civil service.

Is still possible a meritocratic type government in an age of post-truths?

Meritocratic and independent government is more important than ever in a post-truth era! Who else will make it a priority to honestly collect data and craft policies with a utilitarian intent -- to benefit the general public as a whole and not just for narrow interests? Only a meritocratic and utilitarian government will do this.

There are spreading isolationist (Trump's America, Brexit) and separatist (Catalan and Kurdish will) tendencies. What do you think about these centrifugal paths?

I believe that devolution is the most powerful political force in history. Cities and provinces are claiming more political and fiscal autonomy to make their own decisions. It is inevitable and in many ways it is healthy. Once new countries are born, they settle borders with their neighbors, contributing to global peace.

Are small States more efficient? Could be models of tomorrow?

As a rule, small states are more efficient and careful with their resources. They are not only the models of tomorrow but today already. That is why I focus on Switzerland and Singapore in this book. Objectively, they are the best governed and high-performing countries in the world.

What are main characteristics of an info-State? Which might be considered as info-States today?

The info-state uses both democracy and data to determine the key priorities of citizens and the realities on the ground such as economic, education, and infrastructural conditions. The state uses this combination of citizen and data inputs to set policies, monitor them, collect feedback and refine them in real-time. That is what good governments should do.

What are benefits of a collective presidency?

There is no reason why executive branch decisions should be made by one person. Which single individual can constantly and competently juggle domestic and foreign, economic and strategic issues all at the same time? In Switzerland and China, as well as to some degree Singapore, executive functions are governed by a committee of (sometimes elected) figures who can debate and find consensus representing a broad sector of interests. This ensures that there is broad support for policies.

Democracy is based on compromise. Could technocracy's primacy generate a deficit of ethics?

As mentioned before, a good technocracy is very much about finding compromise positions among diverse interests. The key is that a technocratic system would also focus on implementing these consensus positions and policies, not just talking about them.

Write a comment for the Article