Planning -- A Conservative Dirty Word
by Charles Lemos, Fri Dec 12, 2008 at 02:22:26 PM EST
Usually, they will put central in front of it for full force. Central planning is the latest conservative epithet in the wake of President-elect Obama's bold and sweeping proposals for revitalizing the increasingly moribund American economy. Here's Robert Tracinski, the editor of The Intellectual Activist:
The real story of the bailout of the Detroit auto industry is not simply the waste of taxpayers' money on failing enterprises. Rather, the real news is Congress's apparent confidence that the way to revive Detroit is to impose central planning on the auto industry. This would be done by appointing a "car czar" empowered to "act as a kind of trustee with authority to bring together labor, management, creditors and parts suppliers to negotiate a restructuring plan. He or she also would be able to review any transaction or contract valued at more than $25 million."
The term "car czar" is not quite right. As a metaphorical description of the bailout, it evokes the right location--Russia--but the wrong era. "Car commissar" would be much more exact. Perhaps he will begin his work by issuing a five-year plan for the revival of the Big Three.
After all, it's Frei Marktwirtschaft Uber Alles. The free market will provide an answer. How bankrupt is this line of thinking? Not as much as it should be. The nation and the health of the American economy is being held hostage by recalcitrant elements of the Republican party who in pursuit of some perverse ideological point about "free markets" and "limited government" seem willing to let an industry that directly employs a quarter of a million Americans and indirectly contributes to perhaps another five million jobs collapse. It is as if they want the country to fail. The truth is they want government to fail but are they are willing to let country fail to achieve such.
If you haven't read James K. Galbraith's The Predator State: How Conservatives Abandoned the Free Market and Why Liberals Should Too, you owe it to yourself to do so. Galbraith anticipated this latest conservative assault. In the book, Chapter 12 is entitled "The Need for Planning." It opens:
As liberals emerge from a protective crouch that has lasted three decades, the inadequacy of their policy vision must be faced. The various goals of expanded health insurance, universal preschool, job training, and cap-and-trade programs for carbon dioxide are assuredly well intended--except that once we have all those things, we will not yet have solved the fundamental problems to which they are addressed. Health care costs will still be uncontrolled. Jobs will still be in short supply. The rich will still have a big educational edge over the working poor. And climate change will go on. The polite solutions to these problems have a common drawback: they do not do enough. To deal with effectively--and to deal with them all together--requires the use of a dirty word: planning.
It's pretty clear that President-Obama is approaching all of these issues from the standpoint of central planning, because that is one of the essential functions of government--to plan, but conservatives are still out to destroy government in the name of a free market ideology that has failed. As liberals, as progressives it is imperative that we fight for planning. It's time we rehabilitate the concept of long-term planning.