Europe Overthrows Politicians For Technocrats

The European debt crisis has driven politicians in Italy and Greece to turn to technocrats for leadership. What exactly is a technocrat? Will they be the silver bullets needed to help lift Europe out of its economic quagmire? Guest host Linda Wertheimer gets some answers from political scientists.

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Italy and Greece, two European countries mired in debt, are pinning their hopes on technocrats. It got us wondering, what exactly is a technocrat? For some answers, we first turned to former technocrat Ricardo Hausmann. He's an economist by trade and currently teaches at Harvard. But for a brief moment, starting in 1992...

RICARDO HAUSMANN: I was a, yeah, I was a minister of planning in the government of Venezuela.

WERTHEIMER: Hausmann left the post the following year. Politics, he says, has never been his calling.

HAUSMANN: I'd rather think about problems than kiss babies.

WERTHEIMER: But Hausmann says sometimes when countries get into trouble, like a debt crisis, and career politicians are unable to manage the situation, that's when highly skilled experts like himself are called into service.

HAUSMANN: You want to delegate responsibilities on people who are perceived to understand the technical aspects of the problem.

WERTHEIMER: And, just as significant, they're also perceived as apolitical. NYU political scientist Joshua Tucker says in the short term, Italy and Greece's new technocratic leaders will probably be able to make the tough decisions needed to put the countries' financial houses back in order. But, Tucker says...

JOSHUA TUCKER: Saying that technocratic government is going to solve all these problems is merely sort of pushing the problem down the road.

WERTHEIMER: For technocrats, winning politicians' support is easier than winning over the public. In the end, Joshua Tucker says, technocrats can only do so much.

TUCKER: The more this European crisis unfolds, we're always looking for the next big thing that's going to save us. There's going to be stabilization fund. Oh, we'll have technocratic government, right? Ultimately, Europe is filled with democracies now and the democratically-elected leaders of these countries are going to have to make difficult decisions. And there is no quick fix.


WERTHEIMER: You're listening to NPR News.

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