Common Error No. 98


98. "It is more rational to plan for the satisfaction of our future wants and needs than to expect blind chance to do it."
This is true, but often the statement is used to claim superiority for a centrally planned society and for government intervention in the economy. Neither of which it is correct. We all plan individually for the satisfaction of our wants, and imperfect though we are, we tend to do it more accurately than government does, and in less costly ways. We are not leaving it to blind chance if we fail to plan collectively, we are planning individually. We know more about our circumstances than any government can, we know more about our needs and preferences, and we have a bigger stake in the outcome than any bureaucrat can ever have. We plan for ourselves, they do not.

The free society produces an overall order out of all of these millions of inputs. It directs towards the satisfaction of our wants the activities of distant people we will never meet, and has us helping to meet the needs of strangers.

This spontaneous society is better at meeting our needs than any alternative which can be dreamed up by a single human mind, or by a small elite. The larger society contains information from all of us, and produces an ordered outcome not sought deliberately by any of us, but more rational than blind chance could produce, and certainly more rational than anything government could ever achieve.

It meets our needs efficiently and continually directs resources to those who produce the most from them. It enables millions of us to pursue different goals at the same time. Any attempt to plan what society as a whole shall do, or what it shall produce, forfeits that versatility, that spontaneity and that problem-solving ability. It substitutes the priorities of the few for the needs and aspirations of the many.