Central Planning as an Assist to Private Power

Scott Prather of the Four Winds blog has an on-going series of posts on reasons for not being a libertarian. If nothing else, it’s worth reading and understanding where common ground can be made.

Prather’s first objection is that “libertarians agree with Republicans that the source of political corruption is “Big Government,” not corporate capitalism” (emphasis in original). I think there is some validity to that criticism, but these entities seem more difficult to parse. My take is that corporatocracy is just another arm of the state, just as landlords were under the feudal system or how church and state have been intertwined to a greater extent in the past, enhancing the power of each institution had over ordinary people.

The first follow-up post in the series concerns gun control. Prather makes a compelling case (even if he does not support the conclusion himself) that a meaningful opportunity to repel state aggression would require a drastic reduction in police and military arms. I offered a response to his suggestion that central planning is needed for directing the actions of people in a community.

So far, the primary divide that seems to be developing is the notion of whether governments or markets are generally more accountable to people confronting oppressive forms of private power. I think that the marginal level of an institution’s accountability diminishes as the scope of its power expands. A coerced territorial monopoly, government does not face the same level of competitive pressures as private firms wanting to remain in operation. Think if a firm competed with other pizza companies across an entire town, but was granted a monopoly privilege for delivery to a certain street block. The overall competition from the rest of the pizza firms would likely maintain a high level of service, even on the privileged firm’s protected block. But as the size of its territorial monopoly expanded geographically and included more services, like mail delivery, the privileged firm’s product quality would likely diminish across the board and particularly in its protected neighborhoods. That hypothetical is analogous to my concern about expanding the geographical and jurisdictional reach of government power. The duel consequence of central planning, I contend, is that oppressive private power and public power spontaneously work in tandem to reinforce the position of each.

For more on the need to limit the scope of government power, see my 2011 post “Central Planning Undermines Democracy.”