Planning: The Solution America Needs

As part of a series in <em>Harper's</em> on how to save capitalism, James K. Galbraith argues that America can fix many of its economic troubles with better planning -- urban planning, infrastructure planning, and financial planning.
November 6, 2008, 2pm PST | Nate Berg
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"The problem is not how to save capitalism but how to save the unique and successful mixed economy built in the United States over the eighty-five years since the New Deal. Our system is not capitalism. Our economy has a large public sector, which at its best was competently concerned with research, defense, financial stability, environmental safety, social security, and large measures of education, health care, and housing. Today, after thirty years of attack on government, all these functions are damaged and in peril."

"What we do not have is the capacity to figure out, in advance, a coherent national strategy toward this goal, and for using our government to advance that strategy. We have no capacity to plan, and that is what we need now."

"'Planning' has been a dirty word in American politics for decades. For the hard-line right, planning destroyed freedom: it was the "road to serfdom." Anti-planners also thought it a failure; for them the collapse of the U.S.S.R. was due to "central planning." But without public planning, who is in charge? Lobbyists who represent the private planning of the great corporations. The public interest ceases to exist, and the public sector becomes nothing more than a trough at which private interests come to feed."

"For instance, carbon prices and cap-and-trade systems will help to deal with the climate crisis, but they cannot do the whole job. Markets do not design new systems-new patterns of transport and housing, new technologies for electric power, for vehicles, for heating and cooling. To design a system, to put the pieces together, to identify the most promising lines of attack and take steps to achieve them: that is the planner's role."

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Published on Saturday, November 1, 2008 in Harper's
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