by James Corbett, The International forecaster:
…suffering through the Great Depression, the American people were willing to listen to any ideas to replace the current system that had so obviously failed them, no matter how outlandish. Technocracy, Inc. did attract a following, swelling into the tens of thousands later in the decade.
Today, Marion King Hubbert is best known as the Shell Oil researcher who gained notoriety in the 1950s for predicting that the US would achieve its peak production of petroleum by 1970, and that almost all of the planet’s oil supplies would be exhausted by 2020.
This “peak oil” theory, still sometimes referred to as “Hubbert’s Peak,” was, like everything else generated by Big Oil, a conveniently crafted lie, designed to habituate the market to artificial scarcity and thus keep oil prices high. Hubbert’s “prediction” was not based on any empirical data from any oil field, but instead relied on Hubbert’s incorrect guesses about remaining oil reserves and employed a heuristic tool to model production.
As Hubbert’s protege and colleague at Shell Oil, Kenneth Deffeyes, conceded years later: “The numerical methods that Hubbert used to make his prediction are not crystal clear. Today, 44 years later, my guess is that Hubbert, like everyone else, reached his conclusion first and then searched for raw data and methods to support his conclusion.”
Shortly before his death in 1989, Hubbert himself admitted that when he showed his Peak Oil paper to Shell’s managing director before presenting it to his colleagues, the director had told him not to “go overboard” with his estimates of oil reserves, pointing specifically to L.G. Weeks, a rival geophysicist who had estimated reserves to be much higher, and thus the impending threat of undersupply and the need for high oil prices to be much weaker.
But although today Hubbert is remembered almost exclusively for his Peak Oil thesis, he was in fact involved in a much larger, lifelong project, helping to codify and incorporate a movement that, much like eugenics, was wildly popular nearly a century ago, fell out of favor in polite society, and yet continues today under other names. That movement was called “Technocracy.”
Technocracy billed itself as a social movement, a philosophy, a scientific solution to political and economic problems, and a new way of ordering the world. But at base, it is an idea for a new international economic order, one to be designed and managed down to the most minute detail by a select few: the “technocrats.”
As Patrick Wood, author of Technocracy Rising: The Trojan Horse of Global Transformation, explains:
“Technocracy was defined very succinctly in 1938 by their own publication The Technocrat’s Magazine. They call it a system of scientifically engineering society. They believed that they alone were the only ones that could run society correctly. As a result of technology having come in and change the fabric of society, they hated politicians, they hated the establishment, the organization of society they way it is because it was not efficient, it was not conservation based if you will to conserve resources. So they took it upon themselves to define the economic model that would replace capitalism and free-enterprise and that’s exactly what it was, a replacement of the economic system.”
Drawing on Henri Saint-Simon’s call for a scientifically-organized socialist system, the positivism and secular humanism of Auguste Comte, and the “Principles of Scientific Management” propounded by Frederick Taylor, the technocratic movement emerged from the same environment of progressivism, positivism and social Darwinism that birthed eugenics. Just as the eugenicists believed the human race could be improved through selective breeding controlled and administered by a small group of scientists and their billionaire backers, so, too, did the technocrats believe that they could improve the social and economic conditions of humanity by controlling and administering society. And, happily enough for the oiligarchs, the technocrats would would improve the world by replacing money with energy certificates.
Led by the eccentric “revolutionary” economist and sociologist Thorstein Veblen, the technocratic movement that formed around Veblen’s “New School for Social Research” and “Technical Alliance” attracted both engineers and serious researchers like King Hubbert and Buckminster Fuller, and fellow eccentrics like Howard Scott.
Scott, a “mysterious man” of uncertain background, established himself in New York City at the end of World War I and came to be seen as a “bohemian engineer.” In 1920 he went to work for the Wobblies as a research director, and the following year he founded the Technical Alliance, a group of engineers and scientists centered around Columbia University who, as a forerunner to the technocracy movement, advocated for a society run by scientists and engineers.
In 1932, the charismatic and well-spoken Scott managed to attach himself to Walter Rautenstrauch, a professor at Columbia and the founder of the university’s Department of Industrial Engineering. With a common interest in technocracy, the two became friends and allies. It was through Rautenstrauch that Scott was able to approach the president of Columbia, Nicholas Murray Butler, for permission to use the university’s facilities. Butler, always on the lookout for the cutting-edge of progressivism, was swayed by the technocratic ideas, and soon Scott’s “Committee on Technocracy” was operating out of the basement of Hamilton Hall.
When Butler let word slip about the next big idea being cooked up in the basement of his university, technocracy became a sensation. It was lauded in the press, Scott became a sought-after speaker, and there was even a dance named after the movement.
It was at Columbia that Scott met King Hubbert, and the two, an unlikely pair of serious-minded researcher and eccentric revolutionary, immediately hit it off. There stint together at Columbia came to an abrupt end when Scott was exposed as a fraudster. Everyone had assumed he was a qualified engineer, but one enterprising reporter discovered that Scott had no credentials from any university. Butler kicked technocracy out of Columbia and the “Committee on Technocracy” disbanded almost as quickly as it had come together.
Scott found himself at a personal low. Penniless and with an old debt having caught up to him, he had only one person he could rely on: M. King Hubbert.
Hubbert let Scott live in his Greenwich Village apartment and paid out of his own pocket to file the articles of incorporation for Technocracy, Inc., a new membership organization that would carry on the principles of technocracy. The first step, of course, was to define precisely what those principles were.
Hubbert got to work penning the Technocracy Study Course, the Bible of the Technocracy movement. In it, Hubbert laid out the vision of “an abundance of physical wealth on a Continental scale for the use of all Continental citizens,” which, he warned, “can only be accomplished by a Continental technological control, a governance of function, a Technate.”
The technocratic system was to be structured around a new monetary paradigm, one based not on dollars and cents but “Energy Certificates” representing the nation’s net energy expenditure. These certificates would be denominated in Joules and issued based on a net energy budget deemed appropriate by the technocratic state’s governing scientists. Citizens would be issued an equal share of the nation’s certificates and make their purchases with them, and the information about these purchases would be relayed back to the central planning body for analysis. By this method, the technocrats could, in the words of one proponent, “create a thermodynamically balanced load of production and consumption, thereby doing away with unemployment, debt and social injustice.”
In the Technocracy Study Course, Hubbert, like a good technocrat, laid out the exact conditions that would need to be met for this vision to come to pass. According to him, technocracy would require:
- all energy usage and all consumer spending throughout the nation to be calculated and registered on a continuous and instantaneous basis\
- a 24/7 inventory of all production and consumption
- a complete registry of all products available for sale, where they were produced, how much energy was expended in their production, and where and when they were sold.
- And, finally, a “specific registration of the consumption of each individual, plus a record and description of the individual.”
Hubbert’s vision was not just that of a totalitarian society in which every detail of every interaction was recorded and reported to a central authority, but, for the 1930s, the concept of continuously and instantaneously updated registries of every good in the economy was not just audacious, but borderline insane.
Nevertheless, suffering through the Great Depression, the American people were willing to listen to any ideas to replace the current system that had so obviously failed them, no matter how outlandish. Technocracy, Inc. did attract a following, swelling into the tens of thousands later in the decade. But Scott’s eccentric ways, compelling members to salute him in public and delivering rambling radio addresses, ultimately led to the movement’s long, slow decline in relevance.
Hubbert never repudiated the concept of technocracy, but when he joined Shell as a researcher he resigned his position on the board of Technocracy, Inc. and avoided direct mention of the organization.
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