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It will at once be evident that on this point the position will be different with respect to different kinds of knowledge; and the answer to our question will therefore largely turn on the relative importance of the different kinds of knowledge; those more likely to be at the disposal of particular individuals and those which we should with greater confidence expect to find in the possession of an authority made up of suitably chosen experts.
In ordinary language we describe by the word “planning” the complex of interrelated decisions about the allocation of our available resources.
All economic activity is in this sense planning; and in any society in which many people collaborate, this planning, whoever does it, will in some measure have to be based on knowledge which, in the first instance, is not given to the planner but to somebody else, which somehow will have to be conveyed to the planner.
It is about this question that all the dispute about “economic planning” centers.
This is not a dispute about whether planning is to be done or not.
Is a man who hits a computer able to hit a man the same way?
Essays On Social And Economic Issues
What moral aspect concerns the difference between hitting a man and a computer?Why is fashion for both men and women associated with their identity?How can hitting a computer be compared to hitting a person?It is a dispute as to whether planning is to be done centrally, by one authority for the whole economic system, or is to be divided among many individuals.Planning in the specific sense in which the term is used in contemporary controversy necessarily means central planning—direction of the whole economic system according to one unified plan.Competition, on the other hand, means decentralized planning by many separate persons.The halfway house between the two, about which many people talk but which few like when they see it, is the delegation of planning to organized industries, or, in other words, monopoly.Which of these systems is likely to be more efficient depends mainly on the question under which of them we can expect that fuller use will be made of the existing knowledge.And this, in turn, depends on whether we are more likely to succeed in putting at the disposal of a single central authority all the knowledge which ought to be used but which is initially dispersed among many different individuals, or in conveying to the individuals such additional knowledge as they need in order to enable them to fit their plans with those of others.It may be admitted that, as far as scientific knowledge is concerned, a body of suitably chosen experts may be in the best position to command all the best knowledge available—though this is of course merely shifting the difficulty to the problem of selecting the experts.What I wish to point out is that, even assuming that this problem can be readily solved, it is only a small part of the wider problem.