… is from the great science writer Matt Ridley’s 1994 essay “Save Us from Strategists,” which is reprinted as chapter 29 of his superb 1995 collection, Down to Earth:
There is no easier way for a politician to get applause than to say ‘What we need is a proper strategy…’, followed by the words ‘for the countryside/energy policy/exchange rates’, or whatever. Nobody, it seems, is ever against strategies and plans.
Except me. Strategies, to me, embody the fallacy that the world can always be directed from above. Two hundred years of disastrously committing this error, from the mercantilists of the 18th century, via Lenin’s five-year plans and Mao’s murderous Great Leaps Forward, all the way to the Maastricht Treaty have entirely failed, it seems, to drive home the lesson that democratic, bottom-up, market-led solutions are better for more people than dirigiste attempts to guess the future.