14 June 2019

‘scientific’ planning

The rejection of liberty in favour of 'rational' planning goes back a long way. The following is a quote from the Introduction to a book entitled The Great Victorians, published in 1932.

Up to a few years ago we were too near the Victorians to get any nourishment from them. In a sense we were in the same mood as the early leaders of the Reformation, who could see nothing but faults in the system that had reared them. [...] Even before the war, England was being led out of the land of laissez-faire economics and into the land of scientific planning. Since then laissez-faire has been definitely abandoned. Spiritually we have left the old Churches long ago, and are busily building the new.*
'Scientific planning', which was to prove popular with a range of intellectuals from H.G. Wells to Bertrand Russell, soon turned out to have a dark side, as Hayek warned twelve years later:
In order to achieve their ends the planners must create power — power over men wielded by other men — of a magnitude never before known. Their success will depend on the extent to which they achieve such power. Democracy is an obstacle to this suppression of freedom which the centralized direction of economic activity requires. Hence arises the clash between planning and democracy.**

* Massingham (ed.), The Great Victorians, Pelican Books, 1937.
** Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (condensed version), Readers Digest, April 1945.