… is from page 61 of Thomas Sowell’s 2009 book Intellectuals and Society (original emphasis):
[T]here is no concrete institution called “society,” and what is called “social” planning are in fact government orders over-riding the plans and mutual accommodations of millions of other people.
DBx: Indeed so.
“Socialism,” “social planning,” “industrial policy” – these are some of the names given to schemes by which the few substitute their knowledge and preferences for those of the many. And because the few who issue the commands can know neither the preferences of the many nor the on-the-spot, frequently changing, and hyper-detailed economic realities, any such scheme substitutes hubris and ignorance for humility and intelligence.
Choosing the issuers of these commands democratically does not solve the problem described above. Even the most ideal democratic election reveals at best the preference of the majority of voters between two large and unavoidably nebulous bundles of promised-but-not-yet-achieved policy actions. And even if the officials who obtain power through such elections have magnanimity that would shame Albert Schweitzer, they cannot possibly obtain more than a vanishingly small fraction of the knowledge that they would need to possess in order to use their power in ways that improve society.
All proposals for protectionism and industrial policy replace the vast amounts of knowledge incessantly marshaled and used by markets with what is necessarily the ignorance of government officials, and also with what in practice is the breathtaking arrogance of these officials and of those who advise them.