Centralisers don't get it: We're all planners!


Unless you live a solitary life on a forgotten island, it seems likely that decisions you make will impact upon others. Decisions about what to buy and sell, which causes to support, which groups to join, which friends to make, and which things to say, all constitute the actual form of society. The fallacy of the central planner is to believe that none of this could happen effectively without their interference. The debate, therefore, is as to what kind of society we ought to live in; a bottom-up society of individuals voluntarily cooperating, or a "strategically planned" society with fundamental parts of our lives influenced by social science experts.

While the "invisible hand" explains the behavioural forces that make a free society possible, the advantage of dynamic planning as system over a system of state control is infrequently made. The free society acts as a total nexus between all agents, retaining all the information of how people act, and, indirectly what people want. Though it lacks a mind to process or plan, the ripple effects of our decisions change the system and society as a whole, whether through changes in prices and production, our personal relationships or through cultural memes. No central planner, no computer and no expert can comprehend the complexity of the organic society they wish to reorder, nor can the information held in bit pieces by individuals be reduced and aggregated to guide the planner as to our wants. The paradox is that the brightest and best intentioned officials are routinely outsmarted by ordinary people managing small projects, precisely because the system of free association has no calculating centre or mind to overrule the genuine needs and desires of individuals to plan for themselves. Going forward, it is necessary to accept that a network of ordinary people has more collective intelligence than any committee of even the super bright.

Even indicative planning assumes that authority knows best how to arrange our lives, and, as with the holiday companion who insists on planning every minute of your day around their own interests, this engineering of persons soon becomes tiresome. Yet the stifling conceit of strategic planning can be replaced with a decentralised model. As everyone is different, finding satisfaction in colours of life specific to their person, our approach to others must recognise human beings as ends in themselves, and respect that their own path to happiness may not be the same as our own.

Localised actors, whether individuals, companies or governments can act based on better knowledge of their own specific problems, and provide solutions that are diverse and flexible. The inflexibility of the standardised national plan is its fragility, for whatever its political imperative, compounded errors induced by poor information impact on the grand scale. The utopian thinker should remember "small is beautiful", and be content to respect the authentic wishes and plans of people as they are.