T Mises Daily: Tuesday, September 01, 2009 by Daniel James Sanchez
here is something disarming about a technocrat. While it is easy to dismiss elected officials as blustering panderers, there is something comforting in the image of the specialist civil servant toiling away with industry and equanimity. We tend to imagine such an employee of the state poring over statistics as an ancient Greek priest might examine entrails, and carefully allocating resources like an Egyptian vizier allocating slaves. The technocrat seems benign, crucially important, and above the fray.
This is certainly the image that has been cultivated by Federal Reserve chairmen. One remembers Alan Greenspan, with his prominent braincase and thick glasses, uttering technical jargon just arcane enough to assure the markets that all was well with the “Greenspan put.” And we are regularly presented with Ben Bernanke, the bearded sage, comfortingly citing statistics that show how government remedies are working their way through the economy (however egregiously wrong he may be).
This aura surrounding technocracy has grown especially since the civil service “reform” of the late 19th century. But technocrats have been striving for it for much longer.
This striving can be seen distinctly in the person of Nicholas Biddle (1786–1844), one of the more interesting characters in United States history.
Starting in 1822, Biddle was the president of the American central bank that preceded the Fed: the Second Bank of the United States. Biddle was initially reluctant to take the job. A scion of a high society Philadelphia family, Biddle had no stomach for the indecorum of politics. He ultimately accepted the position, however, stating that the Bank was, “of vital importance to the finances of the government and an object of great interest to the community.” …………………..