≡ Menu

Oxymoron: ‘Planned Progress’

Here’s a letter to the Washington Post:

George Will ends his lovely ode to creative destruction – closes his case that such dynamic competition is open-ended and produces progress in necessarily unpredictable patterns – thusly: “Professional coordinators, a.k.a. bureaucracies, are dismayed.  Good.” (“The inexorable march of creative destruction,” March 22).

As the late Baldy Harper (founder of the Institute for Humane Studies, now at my home institution of George Mason U.) wrote “If the planner could plan discovery for others, he probably would have made that discovery himself in the first place.  If he is more able in this respect than the others, he is wasting his time not to do it himself; if he is less able, he can hardly plan it for others who are more able than he is.  The notion that a blueprint for discovery can be drawn in advance is to assert that the planner somehow has the power to scrutinize the inscrutable, or fathom the unfathomable.”*

Regrettably, politicians (particularly those of a “Progressive” stripe) are too prone to fancy that their success at winning elections somehow bestows upon them supernatural abilities to do what Harper explains, and history proves, can’t be done – namely, plan progress.  Solyndra is only the most recent failure of the sort that is inevitable when hubris is mistaken for vision.

Donald J. Boudreaux
Professor of Economics
George Mason University
Fairfax, VA  22030

* F.A. Harper, Liberty: A Path to Its Recovery (Irvington, NY: Foundation for Economic Education, 1949), p. 76.


Next post:

Previous post: