The Public Interest

Does Planning Work?

Aaron Wildavsky

Summer 1971

THE individual versus the state; freedom versus dictatorship; private enterprise versus state control; price systems versus hierarchical e0mmand; rational economic choice versus irrational political interference. The debate over national economic planning in the past four decades has been conducted largely in terms of these dichotomies.  The great questions were: Could state planning be reconciled with personal liberty? Was central planning through administrative command a better or worse mode of decision-making than Utilization by planners of prices determined in economic markets? Would rational modes of economic thought, designed to increase national income in the long run, be able to overcome irrational political forces seeking to accumulate power in the short run? All these questions assume that national economic planningnas distinct from mere arbitrary political intervention—is a real possibility. Obviously, if planning itself did not work, there would be no reason to worry about the things it did not do or the effects it did not cause. 

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