481 CHRONICLESnPlannednObsolescencenby Tommy W. RogersnNational Economic Planning: WhatnIs Left by Don Lavoie, Washington,nDC: CATO Institute; $9.95.nDr. Lavoie, assistant professor of economicsnat George Mason University,nargues that planning—whether Marxism,neconomic democracy, or otherndesignahon—must inevitably disruptnsocial and economic coordination.nThe problem of how to effechvely usenknowledge in society to produce thengoods and services which the publicnwants cannot be solved by centralnplanning and control. Lavoie takes onnthe “radical” spokesmen, such as RobertnReich, Tom Hayden, Michael Harrington,nand others who speak for ancontrolled economy, and makes anpowerful argument that “the ultimaten[vocalized] ends of the radical movementnwill almost certainly be frustratednif national economic planning isnchosen as the means.”nLavoie begins by directing attenhonnto the problems arising from the conflictnbetween the public and privatenspheres of social life. The answer is notnto extend the democratic public spherenat the expense of the competitive privatensphere. The extensions of thenpower of the government to the economicnsphere have not enhanced butnhave drastically reduced its democraticnfeatures. At the same time, they havenincreased the use of coercion in thennecessarily competitive strugglesnamong the members of society. Thenauthor then discusses coordination innsociety, followed by analysis of variousnproposals for comprehensive and supposedlynnoncomprehensive economicnplanning. He concludes that it is thencompetitive market itself which is thenprimary source of knowledge aboutnwhich goods should be produced andnwhich production methods are mostnfeasible. The social function performednby a particular complex ofnlegal and market institutions makesnthem indispensable tools for the solutionnof certain unavoidable problemsninvolved in the production and allocationnof scarce resources.nLavoie’s is a self-described “radical”nas opposed to a conservative critique.nHe largely grants advocates of planningnthe presumption that the originnand essential nature of their ideas arenradical, that theirs are sincere attemptsnto expand the power of the publicnagainst privileged elites. He analyzesnplanning proposals as misguided attemptsnto attain noble ideals. WhatnLavoie has provided is a revisionistninterpretation of the effects of planning.nThe failure of radicalism is notnin its call for a better society, but in itsnspecific Utopian vision which “happensnto be completely unworkable ifncarried to its logical conclusion, andnessentially reactionary if not.”nLavoie argues that the right’s militarizationnof the economy and the left’snindustrial policy or national economicnplanning are fundamentally equivalentnboth to one another and to thenworst of the decaying regimes of thenpresent world. He maintains thatnwhether “its aim is military or not, itsnmethod of organization most certainlynis. And whether this militarization ofnthe economy is left naked (Hitier) or isndressed up as progressive reform (Baruch),nMarxist Communism (Stalin),nor free-market ideals (Reagan), its truennature remains the same: it is nationalneconomic planning.” He feels thatnmodern conservatism byn… its largely rhetoricalndevotion to the free market andnits actual policies ofnconstruction of a permanentnwar economy . . . helpsnperpetuate the myth that it isnthe policies of free marketsnrather than those of planningnthat have been obstructingnpeace, and that it is an existingnmarket economy rather than annestablished system ofncomprehensive planning whichnis responsible for our currentneconomic distress. In fact,nReagan’s rapid militarization ofnthe economy, in spite of thenrosy pictures of free-marketneconomics … is the verynessence of national economicnplanning.nFew people, Lavoie writes, remembernthe Jeffersonian ideals that gave birthnto the American Revolution. Thesenideals once called for a basic policy ofnnonintervention, both in the lives andneconomic activities of the Americannnnpeople and the political affairs of otherngovernments. This country, he asserts,nwas born in the hope of ending foreignnmilitary entanglements. These idealsnhave been steadily eroded:nThe United States has debasednthe dollar that was once thensymbol of monetary stability. Itnhas taxed its productiveneconomy to the point wherenthe rapid growth once taken forngranted has been stifled. Itnhas . . . sent its marinesnthroughout the globenpretentiously acting as worldnpoliceman. It has earned thenhatred of millions of oppressednpeople whose only contact withnit is through its support ofnvicious rulers from Somoza tonthe Shah of Iran to Marcos. Ancouple of decades ago all thatnremained around us of thenAmerican Revolution’s originalnnoninterventionist visionnseemed to be entombed in theninscriptions on several buildingsnin Washington.nRadicals, Lavoie asserts, have let theirnpast belief in comprehensive planning,nbecause of its utter failure and theirnunquestioned aversion to free-marketninstitutions, turn into an irreconcilablenconflict with their own goals. Inntheir opposition to unregulated competitionnand desire to avoid monopoly,nthey have endorsed policies ofngovernment-enforced and protectednmonopolization. Their restoration to anstandpoint of true opposition, henwrites, requires that they finally abandonnplanning in all its guises andnreformulate a radical version of thenfree market and a free society.nTommy W. Rogers is a sociologist innJackson, Mississippi.n