OK, so the title is a little bit provocative - people who've built up a well of knowledge about their subject ought to be consulted and involved in the processes of government, whether that's in the drafting of new laws or plans for the health service. No argument there.
What isn't a good idea is the notion that some things -such as the NHS or Education policy- are too precious to be tinkered with by those no good politicians, and the administration of those departments should be handed over to a virtuous handful of bureaucrats who'll "think long-term".
The most extreme example of this was mentioned on Radio 4 a couple of weeks back, when a member of the public said that they "should build a computer to make all the decisions and to stop the bickering." Hmm.
Victims of the Culture Wars?
Ignoring the idea of a master-computer running our petty human lives, one has to presume that said bureaucrats wouldn't have to justify their decisions to the public, could spend as much money on their projects as they wanted regardless of wider needs and that they couldn't be replaced. Those are the rules governing politicians, after all.
See the problem? Cutting off massive parts of the government from political control just isn't feasible, because as important as some departments may be individually, they're ultimately part of a much wider picture.
The flaw with that line of thinking goes further. If our democratic representatives can't be trusted to run the health service, why should they get to control military procurement, environmental policy or even taxation? We would end up with a technocracy - government by experts- rather than a democracy. Another word for technocracy is dictatorship - it's the "we know best" school of thought.
We Know What's Best For You
Who knows best? No one. Or at least, no single organisation or group. We all have our biases. A perfect plan doesn't exist because the bottom line is that things change. Companies rise, fall and sometimes collapse, religions go in and out of popularity and fashion is always moving.
Any solution is complicated by the fact the planning and management is ultimately based upon things like moral values, contemporary concerns and the information that's currently available, all of which aren't hard scientific facts but are, at times, fiercely contested arguments.
There seems, to us, only one way to ensure that our institutions are well served with continuity, long-term thinking and don't avoid having to take tough decisions whilst maintaining proper accountability. Cross-party agreement.
If the parties could manage to put aside some of their differences to come up with a long-term, publicly announced framework for plotting out the future of education, say, then perhaps some of the more momentous changes between governments could be avoided. The public and the technocrats could be consulted, before the politicians thrashed out the details amongst themselves. It would be a kind of national covenant, perhaps to be revisited once a decade.
Is such a mature, truly national conversation possible? It seems doubtful. Some in the public view the NHS with an almost religious fervour, that it should be given as much money as it wants. Others see it as a clumsy oil-tanker of an organisation, too big to fail. And all the parties like to fight over it in order to win votes.
Removing it from ultimate political control, though, is neither possible nor desirable.
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