terça-feira, novembro 04, 2003
The fallacy of central planning
In 1987, the United Nations Commission on Economic Development defined sustainable development:
?Sustainable development is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.?
While this seems reasonable on the surface, it raises a crucial question: Who shall decide what development does not compromise the needs of future generations, and how shall the conclusions that are reached be implemented? The fact is, there is no way of knowing what future generations will need or what means will be available to obtain it. As Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute pointed out not long ago,
?Imagine the economic planner of 1890 attempting to plan for the needs of today. Whale oil for heating, copper for telegram messages, rock salt for refrigeration, and draft horses for transportation and agriculture would all be high on the list of scarce resources he would worry about sustaining 100 years hence.?
If government planners concerned with sustainable growth had the power to regulate and control these things starting a hundred years ago, would they have permitted the airplane, the automobile, the jet engine, the radio, the television, the microchip and the home computer, the ballpoint pen, the compact disk?
Think of the multitude of everyday things, great and small, that we take for granted today and that make our lives safer, healthier, wealthier, and more comfortable. What if each and every one of them had had to pass strict government regulation and planning approval on a wide variety of grounds, including their possible environmental impact on future generations before they could come into existence and use? How many might never have been approved and, if approved, in what forms and in what quantities?
Every day new discoveries are made and new ideas are formulated. That knowledge is rapidly incorporated into the plans and actions of multitudes of millions of people in their production and consumption decisions around the world. And that includes new conceptions of how actions in the present may affect the future. These new conceptions influence the value and the prices of all the marketable goods that can have uses in that future. Thus, tomorrow?s generations are already incorporated into the thoughts and actions of people today. And this is done in a far more flexible, adaptable, and diverse way than it would be if everything had to pass through the approving eyes of political planning boards and regulatory commissions.
What the world needs for sustainable development is greater market freedom, not a continuation and reinforcement of central planning and political control.
posted by Miguel Noronha 12:06 da tarde
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