In 2003 the Portland Business Journal editorialized about how Portland needed a grand economic plan – soon. I responded, arguing that, no, what we needed was freedom – and soon.
Today, The Oregonian made a similar central planning case in its lead editorial, Greater Portland Inc. helps build economic teamwork. Here is my posted response, condensed from my 2007 Commentary, No Plan(ners) Required:
Central planning suffers from what logicians call the fallacy of composition: assuming that what is true of the parts is true of the whole. Planning is a good thing for individuals, families and firms. But there is no collective mind in a city, state or nation that can do for the whole what countless individuals and organizations can do better for themselves.
Business and government leaders have been creating overlapping and competing plans for Oregon’s economic future for years. Greater Portland Inc. may consolidate some of these plans, but planning is still the operating assumption; and it’s still wrong.
With all this planning, one would expect the Oregon economy to be booming, but it’s not. If we could all just agree on one direction for economic development, everything would be fine. Right?
There are good reasons why there cannot and should not be just one plan. In Portland, for example, some people want tax incentives to attract business, while others want more business taxes to fund our schools. Some want Major League Baseball, while others want to invest in engineering schools. Some want to cut our use of petroleum products in half, while others want more roads to help diesel-burning trucks get goods to market. To the planners such contrasting talk sounds like chaos, when in reality this is how free people get things done.
The smartest people in the room, be they business leaders or politicians, are not able to make collective decisions for everyone in our economy because they simply don’t have the needed information and wisdom. As individuals we all have our own interests and needs, and we satisfy those interests and meet those needs by voluntarily interacting with others in our society.
The best way to boost the collective fortunes of society is to remove the central planners so we can freely boost our own fortunes.
Oregon may love planners, but we need freedom more than central plans. And we need it soon.