Most people believe that the cold war battles of the 20th century scored a decisive victory for free markets over centrally planned societies. The reality however, is that the grip of central banking and state intervention has tightened while at the same time global economies have grown more interlinked and interdependent than ever. Individual states that try to chart a course of their own choosing will find it more and more difficult to do so, risking isolation in the process. Rather than the stability hoped for by the central planners, this will encourage greater weakness through lack of diversity and thereby ultimately hasten the demise of the system as a whole.
Robert M. ThorntonMr. Thornton is a businessman in Covington, Kentucky.My thesis may be stated very simply: central planning will eventually destroy individual liberty by concentrating all political power in one person or in a committee; furthermore, it will eventually end our prosperity by laying the dead hand of state control on the economy. Now there are doubtless some advocates of central planning who are well aware that this would spell the doom of individual liberty, but the great majority of people undoubtedly believe that central planning is compatible with freedom and prosperity. It is to the latter that my words are directed.Let me begin by noting that the three great intellectual traditions—classical liberalism, conservatism, and whiggism—converge at this point, in their opposition to state planning.In his monumental book, Human Action, Dr. Ludwig von Mises, a classical liberal, has this to say on central planning:The truth is that the alternative is not between a dead mechanism or a rigid automatism on one hand and conscious planning on the other hand. The alternative is not plan or no plan. The question is whose planning? Should each member of society plan for himself, or should a benevolent government alone plan for them all? The issue is not automatism versus conscious action; it is autonomous action of each individual versus the exclusive action of the government. It is freedom versus government omnipotence.Laissez faire does not mean: Let soulless mechanical forces operate. It means: Let each individual choose how he wants to cooperate in the social division of labor; let the consumers determine what the entrepreneurs should produce. Planning means: Let the government alone choose and enforce its rulings by the apparatus of coercion and compulsion. (p. 726)