Monday, April 29, 2013 10:00 PM
At a recent county meeting that discussed Planning & Zoning, Commissioner Phil Bane wisely stated, "I don't wake up in the morning without a plan for what I'm going to that day." Successful people, especially businessmen, appreciate the importance of handling common problems with as much foresight as possible. This is probably what makes a county Comprehensive Plan seem like a good idea, on the surface. i.
But the debate between the central planners vs. the personal liberty advocates isn't whether we ought to use systematic thinking in planning our lives. It's a dispute about what is the best method of doing it. Method #1 (Personal Liberty) is to create conditions where the knowledge and initiative of individuals are the priority so that these individuals themselves can plan most successfully. Method #2 (Centralized Planning) is to direct and organize economic activities according to a "comprehensive plan," in order to direct the resources of our community to conform to the planners' particular views of what individuals and businesses should be allowed to do.i
Centralized planners argue that globalization and the complexity of modern society has created new problems that we can't hope to deal with unless we have centralized economic planning and centralized land management. However, this argument is based on a gross misunderstanding of how economic competition works. The very complexity of our modern society makes free market competition the only method that can effectively coordinate all individual efforts.ii
Centralized planning wouldn't be difficult if conditions were so simple that a single planning commission or economic development corporation could effectively survey all the facts. But as the factors which have to be taken into account become numerous and complex, no one center can keep track of them. The constantly changing supply and demand for different goods and services can never be fully known or disseminated quickly enough by any one center.iii It actually backfires. The more the government "plans," the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.iv
Under competition the price system automatically records all the relevant data. Entrepreneurs, by watching the movement of comparatively few prices, can adjust their business decisions to those of their competitors. Compared with this method of solving economic problems (decentralization plus automatic coordination through the price system), the method of government comprehensive planning is clumsy, primitive, and limited in scope.v Locally, we see evidence of this by comparing the struggles of the centrally-planned Commerce Park to the success of the free-market-planned Nucor district.
The role of government in a free market system is to plan for competition. In other words, it should preserve the conditions in which competition is most effective. It does this by preventing fraud and deception. It should eliminate tax and regulatory burdens that require a staff of lawyers and accountants to understand, so that small businesses can compete with big businesses.
The Republican Platform sums it up well: "We are committed to creating an environment where jobs and our economy can grow. The proper role of government in this equation is to get out of the way and let Hoosier entrepreneurs and job creators build, grow and expand their private enterprises in our state."vi